Category Archives: Lawyer impugning qualifications or integrity of judge

Zealous representation or lawyer misconduct? Where does the Florida Supreme Court draw the line?

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert will discuss the lawyer’s duty to competently and zealously represent a client and the Florida Supreme Court decisions addressing when a lawyer’s conduct may cross the line and constitute misconduct and violate the Florida Bar Rules.  Lawyers understand that they should zealously represent clients and, while that understanding is correct, the Supreme Court of Florida has repeatedly stated that lawyers must act professionally and ethically during the course of the representation, both in and out of the courtroom.

The Florida Bar Rules do not use the word “zealous”; however, the Preamble to Chapter 4 of the Bar Rules states, in part, as follows:

As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions.  As an adviser, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications.  As an advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system.  As a negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealing with others.  As an evaluator, a lawyer acts by examining a client’s legal affairs and reporting about them to the client or to others… A lawyer’s responsibilities as a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen are usually harmonious.  Zealous advocacy is not inconsistent with justice (emphasis supplied).

The Supreme Court of Florida has addressed zealous advocacy/ethical misconduct in multiple opinions through the years and has addressed when zealous conduct is a violation the Florida Bar Rules.  The following cases are a sample of those opinions and the evolution of the Court’s position on the issue.

In The Florida Bar v. Martocci, 791 So.2d 1074 (Fla. 2001), the Court reprimanded and imposed a two year probation on a lawyer who engaged in unprofessional and abusive conduct and for unethical comments and behavior toward opposing counsel, the opposing party, and the opposing party’s family during depositions, in court, and outside the courtroom during breaks in the proceedings.  The attorney was representing the husband in a bitter divorce, child custody, and child dependency matter.  As a condition of the probation, the attorney was required to be evaluated by Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. for possible anger management skills training or mental health assistance or both.

In The Florida Bar v. Morgan, 938 So.2d 496 (Fla.2006), the Court suspended an attorney for ninety-one days for courtroom misconduct. The attorney had been publicly reprimanded and suspended for ten days on two prior occasions. The attorney refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct but the referee found (and the Supreme Court adopted) the mitigating factor of good character and reputation, including the provision of pro bono legal services, serving as a role model for an assistant state attorney, and being held in high esteem as an excellent and passionate advocate by two judges and an attorney.

In The Florida Bar v. Abramson, 3 So.3d 964 (Fla. 2009), the attorney was found to have been repeatedly disrespectful and rude to the trial judge at a hearing and was suspended for ninety-one days.  The Supreme Court opinion stated that:

“Abramson’s misconduct was egregious. He was disrespectful and confrontational with the presiding judge in an ongoing courtroom proceeding in the presence of the pool of prospective jurors in a criminal case. Regardless of any perceived provocation by the judge, Abramson responded inappropriately by engaging in a protracted challenge to the court’s authority. His ethical alternative, if he believed the trial court had erred, was by writ or appeal. He has also been publicly reprimanded twice before for serious misconduct.  See also The Florida Bar v. Wasserman, 675 So.2d 103 (Fla. 1996) (two six-month consecutive suspensions on an attorney in his fifth discipline case before the Court where the attorney had an angry outburst in court after an unfavorable ruling and expressed contempt for the court, stated in the hallway outside the courtroom that he would counsel his client to disobey the court’s ruling, and used profane language over the telephone to a judge’s judicial assistant);  The Florida Bar v. Price, 632 So.2d 69 (Fla.1994) (ninety-one day suspension for appearing in court under the influence of alcohol and behaving in a hostile, abrasive, and belligerent; reinstatement conditioned on ability to show that satisfactorily completion of an evaluation and course of treatment for substance abuse approved by the Bar.”

In The Florida Bar v. Norkin, 132 So.3d 77 (Fla. 2013), the lawyer was suspended for two (2) years and required to appear before the Florida Supreme Court for a public reprimand.  The Court’s opinion detailed numerous instances of misconduct by the lawyer, including engaging in “tirades and antagonistic behavior” in exchanges with judges and other attorneys.  The opinion noted that it is “profoundly concerned with the lack of civility and professionalism demonstrated by some Bar members. The Court has repeatedly ruled that unprofessional behavior is unacceptable.  (citations omitted).”  The lawyer appeared before the Court for the reprimand in February 2014, which was read by then Chief Justice Ricky Polston, and smirked during the proceeding.  The opinion is here:  Florida SC Norkin 2013

In The Florida Bar v. Norkin, 183 So. 3d 1018 (Fla. 2015), The Florida Bar filed a petition for contempt and a complaint alleging that Norkin had failed to comply with the Court’s (and Bar Rule’s) requirement that he notify clients of his suspension and provide an affidavit confirming same and that the lawyer “had engaged in the practice of law after the effective date of the suspension by sending an e-mail to opposing counsel in a case pending in the circuit court questioning a hearing date and discussing the results of the hearing and the legal sufficiency of the motion addressed, and by preparing a pleading for his former client, which the client filed in the circuit court case.”  He also sent disparaging e-mails to Bar Counsel and admitted during the underlying Bar proceedings that he had smirked during the public reprimand before the Court.

The referee granted summary judgment in favor of the Bar and recommended disbarment.  In an unanimous opinion dated October 8, 2015 (which is here Florida SC Norkin 10/8/15, the Court permanently disbarred the lawyer and stated:

“As found by the referee in his report, Norkin’s e-mails to bar counsel referred to bar counsel as “evil” and “despicable”; called the proceedings against him “the most unjust act in judicial history”; stated that bar counsel had no conscience; and stated, “I’m preparing the lawsuit against you. Keep an eye out.”  At the hearing on the motion for sanctions, the referee questioned Norkin about the e-mails and his behavior during the public reprimand administered by this Court. In response, Norkin asserted his “right to speak freely and to express his beliefs in the manner of his choosing,” and freely admitted that during the public reprimand, he intentionally smirked and stared down each Justice one by one. We have disciplined attorneys for similar conduct as a violation of rule 4-8.4(d), including Norkin himself. See Norkin, 132 So. 3d at 86; Fla. Bar v. Martocci, 791 So. 2d 1074, 1075, 1078 (Fla. 2001) (finding that making insulting facial gestures at opposing counsel, making sexist comments, and disparaging opposing counsel violated rule 4-8.4(d)); Fla. Bar v. Buckle, 771 So. 2d 1131, 1132 (Fla. 2000) (finding that humiliating and intimidating letter, sent by attorney to alleged victim of his client, violated rule 4-8.4(d)). Accordingly, we approve the referee’s recommendation.

Here, disbarment is amply supported. As noted by the Bar, the Court has not hesitated to disbar attorneys who continue to practice law after being suspended. See Fla. Bar v. Lobasz, 64 So. 3d 1167, 1173 (Fla. 2011) (disbarring attorney for practicing law while suspended, even where attorney suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression); Fla. Bar v. D’Ambrosio, 25 So. 3d 1209, 1220 (Fla. 2009) (disbarring suspended attorney who held himself out as eligible to practice law by sending letters on firm letterhead subsequent to suspension); Fla. Bar v. Forrester, 916 So. 2d 647, 654-55 (Fla. 2005) (disbarring attorney for practicing law while suspended); Fla. Bar v. Heptner, 887 So. 2d 1036, 1045 (Fla. 2004) (disbarring attorney for multitude of violations, but noting that disbarment would be appropriate solely on basis of continuing to practice law after being suspended); Fla. Bar v. Rood, 678 So. 2d 1277, 1278 (Fla. 1996) (disbarring attorney for practicing while suspended); Fla. Bar v. Greene, 589 So. 2d 281 (Fla. 1991). Moreover, given Norkin’s continuation of his egregious behavior following his suspension and during the administration of the public reprimand, we conclude that he will not change his pattern of misconduct. Indeed, his filings in the instant case continue to demonstrate his disregard for this Court, his unrepentant attitude, and his intent to continue his defiant and contemptuous conduct that is demeaning to this Court, the Court’s processes, and the profession of attorneys as a whole. Such misconduct cannot and will not be tolerated as it sullies the dignity of judicial proceedings and debases the constitutional republic we serve. We conclude that Norkin is not amenable to rehabilitation, and as argued by the Bar, is deserving of permanent disbarment. See Fla. Bar v. Behm, 41 So. 3d 136, 139-40 (Fla. 2010) (stating that persistent course of unrepentant misconduct warrants permanent disbarment); Fla. Bar v. Carlson, 183 So. 2d 541 (Fla. 1966) (stating that permanent disbarment is warranted where conduct of respondent indicates he is beyond redemption).”

Bottom line:  While Norkin may be an extreme case, lawyers must be on notice that the Supreme Court of Florida has become far less tolerant of rude, belligerent, and disrespectful behavior, regardless of whether it is couched in terms of “zealous advocacy” on behalf of a client.

Be careful out there!

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Disclaimer:  this Ethics Alert is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it. 

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

29605 U.S. Highway 19 N., Suite 150,

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

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North Carolina Bar complaint alleges, inter alia, that lawyer made disparaging statements about judges in court documents

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent disciplinary complaint against a North Carolina lawyer who is alleged to have made disparaging comments about lawyers and judges in court pleadings including, inter alia, accusing judges of “overwhelming incompetence and ignorance, as well as asinine and unprofessional behavior” and “acting like mentally challenged cheerleaders”.  The disciplinary case is North Carolina State Bar v. Michael J. Anderson, 15-DHA-47 and the disciplinary Complaint is here:  http://www.ncbar.com/discipline/DHC_File_DHC_file_filename_bv.asp?DHC_file_doc=889

The disciplinary complaint contains three counts/claims, including one count with allegations regarding the lawyer’s failure to respond to a grievance against him and making false statements, a second with allegations regarding his handling his trust account, and a third with allegations regarding his pleadings in a workers’ compensation case.

With regard to the workers’ compensation matter, the lawyer filed a civil complaint on behalf of a client, responded to a motion to dismiss and handled an appeal to the state court of appeals.  He is alleged to have made a number of disparaging statements in his pleadings, including accusing the court of “overwhelming incompetence and ignorance… I felt just as I imagine I would have over a century ago arguing to said court that slavery was bad labor relations policy… [the court showed] a stubborn arrogance and ignorance…[a judge] literally threw a temper tantrum…As I felt like I was attempting to teach physics to a class of unruly third graders.”

In another pleading, the lawyer allegedly stated: “the lack of intellectual functioning and overt partiality of this panel…being readily apparent but, acting like mentally challenged cheerleaders, knowing they wanted to motivate their team to victory, but not sure how to accomplish the goal… [the judge] was assuming the role of ‘house negro’ for purposes of this matter…Sounding more like ‘Beaver Cleaver’ than any person has a right to…”

In another pleading: the lawyer allegedly stated “the instant panel will glad [sic] play thee [sic] blind mice and [Judge] will serve the historical role played by Monica Lewinsky for President Clinton for the current governor of North Carolina… if these judges are intent upon making the [court] a literal ‘whippin boy’ for special interests, they are welcome to kiss my red white and blue American male ass.”

Bottom line: If the allegations are true, this case involves a lawyer who had great difficulty with objectivity and civility in the language of his pleadings, to say the least.  We all know that lawyers are under constant stress and we may be unhappy with judges’ decisions and this is a classic example of how not to handle it.  There is no place for such language and disparaging statements in court documents, or otherwise.

Be careful out there.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Illinois Hearing Board recommends 3 year suspension for lawyer who allegedly made false statements in blog posts on probate matters

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Illinois Hearing Board Report and Recommendation which recommended a 3 year suspension for a lawyer who allegedly made false statements on a blog concerning the integrity of the judges, knowing they were false or with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity, and engaged in dishonest conduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. The disciplinary opinion is In re JoAnne Marie Denison, Commission No. 2013PR00001 (11/21/14). The opinion here: http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=11550.

The lawyer was licensed to practice law in Illinois 1986 and has no prior discipline. According to the Report, a one count Complaint was filed against the lawyer on January 8, 2013 charging her with misconduct based on statements she made on a blog regarding judges, lawyers and other persons involved in an adult guardianship proceeding (Sykes). Beginning in November 2011, the lawyer wrote and was responsible for an Internet blog (or blogs).

Some of the lawyer’s blogs alleged that there was corruption in the probate court in general and in the Sykes case in particular. The lawyer testified she produced the blog as a private person and not as a lawyer although her knowledge and skill as an attorney was required to post and author the blogs. She stated that she published the blog primarily from a legal standpoint and her blog had an audience of about 40,000 at the time of the hearing.

The Report further states: “The blog includes allegations of wrongdoing by specific individuals involved in the Sykes case. These allegations are summarized in a “Table of Torts.” While those persons are referenced by initials, the Table identifies the persons to whom the initials refer. (The lawyer) prepared the Table of Torts. Because (the lawyer) periodically added material to the Table of Torts, more than one version is in evidence. (The lawyer) acknowledged the exhibits fairly represent snapshots of the Table of Torts.” (citations omitted).

“On the blog, (the lawyer) described the Table of Torts as ‘TEN PAGES of questionable behavior, corruption, misfeasance, malfeasance, perpetration of misdemeanors and felonies,’ occurring in the Sykes case, and as a ‘Summary of the Case! – 90%+ of the wrongful conduct all in one convenient place.’” (citations omitted). “While (the lawyer) acted with reckless disregard for the truth of her accusations, based on our impressions of (the lawyer), we do not believe she was acting out of a deliberate purpose of harming the judges and attorneys involved. (The lawyer) genuinely, though unreasonably, believed something was wrong with the proceedings in the Sykes case. (The lawyer) knew Mary and Gloria before the guardianship.”

“While (the lawyer) used decidedly misguided means, we believe she was acting out of a sincere desire to help Mary. We were also convinced (the lawyer) truly believes there are abuses in the probate system and the system needs to be changed, to protect persons who are the subject of adult guardianship proceedings. From our perspective, it appears (the lawyer) has genuine concern for senior citizens and perceives the senior population as vulnerable, especially to financial exploitation. This concern, as a general matter, is a legitimate one, even though (the lawyer) had no reasonable basis for believing the judges or attorneys in Mary’s case were corrupt. We do not believe (the lawyer) acted with a self-serving motive. The evidence did not support a theory that (the lawyer) was reaping a significant financial benefit from her activities including operation of the blog.”

The (Bar) Administrator argued for disbarment and the lawyer argued that no discipline should be imposed. The Report found that the lawyer made had false statements concerning the integrity of the judges, knowing they were false or with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity, and engaged in dishonest conduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. The Report also found that there was no clear and convincing evidence that the lawyer presented or threatened to present criminal charges, in order to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.

According to the Report, “(the lawyer) engaged in serious misconduct. On an internet blog which she published, (the lawyer) made numerous posts, over time, in which she impugned the integrity of judges and other attorneys, falsely and without any reasonable basis for believing her statements were true. Such misconduct is quite serious, given the potential it carries to damage the public’s perception of the court system.” After considering mitigation and aggravation as well as prior Illinois Supreme Court cases, the Report recommended a 3 year suspension which will require the lawyer to apply to the Court for reinstatement.

Bottom line: This case involves important issues related to the interplay between the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and alleged lawyer misconduct/discipline. The lawyer allegedly engaged in misconduct in blog posts alleging corruption in the Illinois court system. Although the Report found that the lawyer was “acting out of a sincere desire to help (Sykes)”, she did not act with a “a self-serving motive”, and she did not receive a “a significant financial benefit”, the Board recommended a very significant 3 year suspension requiring reinstatement. It will be interesting to see what the Illinois Supreme Court decides…stay tuned.

Disclaimer: this Ethics Alert is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670
jcorsmeier@jac-law.com
http://www.jac-law.com

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Illinois Review Board recommends one year suspension for a lawyer’s misconduct while representing himself in a small claims collection matter

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Illinois Review Board Report and Recommendation which recommended a one year suspension with six months stayed and probation for a lawyer’s misconduct. The case is In re Brian Keith Sides, Commission No. 2011PR00144 (March 31, 2014) and the Report is here: http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=11301.

According to the Board’s Report, the lawyer was representing himself in a small claims collection litigation matter which began in 2006. In January 2011, following a hearing at which the lawyer failed to appear, the judge (Judge Kennedy) issued an order denying the lawyer’s outstanding motions. The lawyer then filed a motion to reconsider alleging that the judge had improperly ruled on the motions since the case had been set only for a status conference. In the motion, the lawyer stated: “Such back-alley justice makes a mockery of the legal procedures that gives parties notice of hearing and a right to be heard, procedures traditionally sets our legal system form (sic) that of oppressive dictorial (sic) regimes.” He also alleged that all of the judges in the Illinois Sixth Circuit had colluded against him

According to the Report, during the lawyer’s unsuccessful attempts to vacate the judgment, he also made the following claims and statements in various pleadings:

1. “Judge Leonhard erred by requiring the Respondent “to testify in open court, with regard to his social security number” and “demanded that [Respondent] provide an answer in open court as to his social security number”
2. Judge Leonhard was “purposely manipulating the record”;
3. The judge engaged in a “deliberate effort to destroy [Respondent’s] case and/or a deliberate effort to intimidate [Respondent] from further pursuing his rights by giving [Respondent] an introductory lesson in the abusive powers of the Judge.”
4. The proceedings were a “sham” and the judge was a “prejudicial judge”;
5. Judge Leonhard made sure Respondent’s testimony was not on the record.
6. Judge Leonhard improperly left the bench and walked out of the courtroom while the process server was on the stand; and
7. In describing Judge Leonhard’s abuse, Respondent questioned whether Judge Leonhard might be at a “low point” in his career and might need assistance with stressors in his life, referencing the Lawyers Assistance Program.”

The Illinois Hearing Board found that the above statements were false. In December 2011, the lawyer filed a motion to recuse the judge and, in the motion, he referred to the judge as a “scourge on his profession” and to both the judge and opposing counsel as “predators”. The motion also called the opposing counsel a “susceptible boy-lawyer” who learned from the judge the power of corruption so he “can accept a judgeship, representing the next generation of Illinois corruption.”

The Hearing Board found that the lawyer’s statements regarding the integrity of the judges violated Rule 8.2(a) and 8.4(d) and that he made a false statement of fact to a tribunal in violation of Rule 3.3(a)(1) related to his statement that all of the judges in the Sixth Circuit colluded against him, since conceded that he had no evidence of the alleged collusion. The Hearing Board found that the lawyer did not violate Rule 4.4(a) (the statements served no substantial, legitimate purpose other than to harass, demean and insult the judges and opposing counsel); however, the Review Board’s Report found that the lawyer violated that rule (and all of the others) and recommended a one year suspension (with six months stayed) and a one year probation to follow under the supervision of a licensed Illinois lawyer.

Bottom line: You know the old cliché “…every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.” Henry Kett, 1814 (restated by Abraham Lincoln). One of the reasons for this cliché is the very real possibility/probability that the person who represents him or herself will become too emotional about the matter. It appears that this may have been exactly what happened to this lawyer, whose intemperate criticism of the judge (and opposing counsel) may have bought him a substantial suspension from practice. Stay tuned…

…and please be careful out there!

Disclaimer: this blog is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670
jcorsmeier@jac-law.com
http://www.jac-law.com

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, Attorney misrepresentation, dishonesty, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer false statements, Lawyer impugning qualifications or integrity of judge, Lawyer misrepresentation, Lawyer sanctions

Idaho lawyer receives public reprimand for filing motion to withdraw stating that a magistrate judge was “lazy, incompetent, biased, prejudiced; or all or some of the above”

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Idaho State Bar Professional Conduct Board’s public reprimand of a lawyer who filed a motion to withdraw and stating that the judge was “either biased toward them, prejudiced against Counsel, too lazy to actually listen to the recording of the relevant interview, or too incompetent to reach the correct conclusion from the facts.  Therefore, Counsel lacks faith in this Court’s ability to objectively and competently serve as a fact-finder in this case.”  The case is Idaho State Bar v. Eric J. Scott, ISB No. FC-12-08 (October 4, 2012).  A summary of the Order is here:  http://isb.idaho.gov/bar_counsel/public_discipline.html.

According to the Order and summary of the disciplinary matter, the lawyer represented a criminal defendant charged with possession of an open container and battery.  A magistrate named Thomas Watkins was assigned to the case and stated in an order that the test for determining whether a suspect was in custody “is a subjective one and the only relevant inquiry is how a reasonable man in the suspect’s position would have understood his situation.”   Following the magistrate’s decision denying the pre-trial motions, the lawyer filed a motion to withdraw as counsel.

In the motion to withdraw, the lawyer stated that the magistrate had erroneously applied a subjective test rather than an objective test in analyzing whether the defendant was in custody.  The lawyer described the magistrate’s statement of the test as “stunningly nonsensical” and stated that “[w]ith all due respect to this Court, this statement makes no sense.”  Regarding the open container charge, the lawyer stated that the magistrate erroneously concluded that the defendant admitted to an officer that he had consumed alcohol in a public theater.  The lawyer concluded the motion to withdraw by stating, in part:

“The Court’s errors in this case were so inexplicable and so great in number that Counsel has formed the belief that this Court is:

(a)        lazy;
(b)        incompetent;
(c)        biased;
(d)       prejudiced; or
[(e)]     all or some of the above.

With all due respect, Counsel simply cannot escape this belief.  There is no explanation for this Court’s ‘finding’ of a ‘fact’ that did not exist.  It would be understandable if this Court overlooked a fact, but this Court made up a fact.  It just so happens that this Court made up facts to the advantage of his former employer, the Boise City Prosecutor’s Office.  Therefore, this Court is either biased toward them, prejudiced against Counsel, too lazy to actually listen to the recording of the relevant interview, or too incompetent to reach the correct conclusion from the facts.  Therefore, Counsel lacks faith in this Court’s ability to objectively and competently serve as a fact-finder in this case.

For the reasons set forth above, Counsel also has no faith in this Court’s ability to competently and objectively interpret the law in this case.  The Court’s stunningly nonsensical statement of the ‘test’ for determining custody speaks for itself….”

The magistrate denied the motion to withdraw after a hearing and the lawyer was subsequently served with a written charge of criminal contempt.  Following another hearing, the lawyer was found guilty of contempt, and the guilty finding was pending on appeal on the date of the public reprimand.  The defendant in the underlying case was found not guilty of the battery charge and the open container charge was dismissed after the state rested its case.

The Professional Conduct Board of the Idaho State Bar initiated an investigation of the lawyer after a complaint was filed on June 29, 2012.  The lawyer declined to file and answer because of the pending contempt case with criminal implications.  On September 24, 2012, the Committee of the Professional Conduct Board conducted a hearing on the Idaho State Bar’s Motion to Deem Admissions for Failure to Answer and for Imposition of Sanction.  Following the hearing, the committee entered an Order finding that the lawyer violated I.R.P.C. 8.2(a), by making a statement concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge that a reasonable attorney, considered in light of all his professional functions, would not have made under the circumstances.

The Professional Conduct Board ‘s 10/4/12 Order imposed a public reprimand along with probation and the condition that he complete a one-year mentoring program facilitated by the Idaho State Bar.  The lawyer had begun the mentoring program voluntarily before the disciplinary case was filed and was given credit for 5 months toward the one-year requirement.

Bottom line:  Wow…is there something in that fresh mountain air in Idaho?  Do I even need to say that lawyers should think before they write and file a motion like this, particularly if it is a motion to withdraw?

Be careful out there!

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and/or guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.    

Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, joe corsmeier, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer impugning qualifications or integrity of judge, Lawyer sanctions