This is Tuesday’s roundup of all the top stories about lawyers and judges getting into trouble.
Cleveland judge fines lawyer $11K for tipping off news media on a sex abuse cover-up
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Burt Griffin (who began his legendary career as an investigator on the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy) fined a local Cleveland lawyer $11k for the temerity of tipping off local media to a story about a lawsuit claiming a “nanny school” covered up reported sexual abuse. Attorney Peter Pattakos ran afoul of the judge for tipping a friend in the media to developments in the case.
Lawyer Accused of Mingling with Witness
Prominent Columbus, Georgia lawyer Michael Eddings was reprimanded by the Georgia Supremes for the second time for “talking to witnesses” without their attorneys’ consent. His larger problems stem from the disappearance of $2 million dollars from his law office trust account which were held for clients as part of a once-upon-a-time successful real estate closing practice–which Eddings blames on an ex-wife who was acting as his office manager.
Ugly politics and the AG without a law license continue to deal with the Jerry Sandusky cover-up fallout
The the legal career Pennsylvania AG Kathleen Kane takes another turn as the legacy-defining prosecution of Penn State administrators was reversed in a ruling by a Superior Court. Kane may or may not have the ability to decided or even direct the decision making relative to any appeal pursued by her office. Those following this sad tale of a once promising progressive Pennsylvania politician will remember that she rose to office, in part, channeling outrage over the cover-up of Coach Sandusky’s sex crimes by Penn State administrators. Kane is, hereself, under indictment since January of 2015 for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with leaks linked to her office dealing with her decision not to indict allegedly corrupt democrats from the Philadelphia area. All of which is framed by a wholly separate upheaval on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court involving pornographic emails resulting in the removal of justices who voted to suspend her law license.
Louisville Judge faces ethics charges over acting as police, prosecutor, jury
Louisville District Court Judge Sheila Collins is facing potential disciplinary action after the state Judicial Conduct Commission charged her with misconduct for locking up an alleged victim of domestic violence without providing her an attorney or holding a hearing according to a Louisville television station. The commission notified Judge Collins that she violated the code of judicial conduct, but the judge “categorically denies” any misconduct, according to a story at the WDRB.com website. According to reporter Jason Riley at WDRB, a lawyer for judge Collins, acknowledged that the Judge “was wrong in ordering a deputy to charge the alleged victim with false swearing.” Typically, the cops and prosecutors in Kentucky are responsible for investigating and charging defendants before they are jailed.
Indicted Texas AG denied access to donor funds to pay for his criminal defense to security fraud charges
ABC reports that indicted Texas AG, Ken Paxton has been denied access to donor funds to pay for his defense to security fraud charges. The Republican attorney general is dealing with multiple investigations into securities and questionable land deals. According to ABC News, he could still take money from wealthy contributors to pay his lawyers but without the blessing of the Texas Ethics Commission he would lose political cover. A proposed ruling to allow private donors to pay for the AG’s defense was criticized as an invitation for “an indicted, cash-strapped attorney general to put a ‘For Sale’ sign on his office.” That sounds about right.
Calling the Disciplinary Counsel a “Pimp” and “Oreo” is not a recommended approach to disciplinary charges | Disbarment recommended for Louisiana lawyer
The hearing committee of the Louisiana Disciplinary Board recommended permanent disbarment for a lawyer accused of, among other things, calling the disciplinary counsel a “pimp” and an “Oreo.” The recommendation of disbarment for Ashton O’Dwyer Jr., noted that the lawyer’s “anger border[ed] at times on rage[.]” The ethics authorities described a June 2012 hearing by the committee at which Mr. O’Dwyer “had to be admonished for brandishing about his shillelagh, his action clearly inappropriate for a disciplinary proceeding.”
Indiana lawyer sanctioned by federal judge and reprimanded by the disciplinary authorities
An Indiana man learned that his federal civil rights case was dismissed when his daughter checked the docket for him. Not only that, the lawyer who filed the case failed to engage in discovery, answer motions to compel or attend hearings on sanctions, according to a federal judge.. Lawyer, Eduardo Fontanez Jr. was sanctioned. Federal judges really, really hate when practitioners file actions then fail to participate in prosecuting the action. Indiana accepted an agreed sanction of a reprimand for this first time offender.
Source: Indiana Lawyer
Albuquerque lawyer accused shooting an unarmed homeless man in his office acquitted following second jury trial
The ABQJounal reports that local lawyer David Chipman “Chip” Venie was acquitted following a second jury trial. The first trial ended in a mistrial in the summer of 2015. The lawyer shot Stephen Biddinger in August 2012 and Venie was accused by prosecutors of tampering with evidence to cover-up the circumstances of the alleged crime. The attorney asserted that he acted in self-defense when Mr. Biddinger trespassed into his Albuquerque office with threats against the lawyer’s wife and co-workers. The homeless victim sustained a femoral artery laceration but survived the shooting.
Source: ABQ Journal
William Crosby is a LawNewz.com contributor. He used to run the BadLawyerNYC blog.
[Screenshot via WRDB]