I’ve represented a lot of lawyers over the years in disciplinary proceedings in Tennessee. It is certainly fair to say that the process is slow when you want it to be fast and sometimes vice versa.
I noticed a story that the ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct ran with that made me realize that the disciplinary process is pretty remarkably slow in a lot of places. Mike Frisch has written at length, and repeatedly, about his views on how slow the DC disciplinary process is, but this is about the long and winding road that is a disciplinary case against a California DUI lawyer.
The article in the Lawyers’ Manual caught my attention immediately because I remember the lawyer in question — not only because of his punny name but because I highlighted certain aspects of what he was going through at a past Ethics Roadshow — the 2014 Ethics Roadshow. Back then there had been a recommendation that he be suspended for 90 days for, among quite a few things, improperly questioning police officers in front of the jury about prior perjury allegations. At that time, I also mentioned that he was going to have to deal with more allegations, the pending charge against him for his stealing materials from the prosecutor on the other side of a case – and being caught on video doing so — and lying to the judge when confronted.
From the ruling itself, here is a very pithy description of the underlying facts:
In sum, a prosecutor alleged that on July 9, 2014, Genis “fiddled” with his papers during a court recess and then rearranged and hid a document from him. The prosecutor promptly reported this to the trial judge. The judge then asked Genis in a series of four consecutive questions whether he touched, moved, or hid any of the prosecutor’s documents, and each time, Genis denied the allegations. On the fourth inquiry, Genis “categorically” denied any wrongdoing. The trial judge later reviewed a videotape of the
courtroom that revealed to him that Genis did what he denied doing.
Back in June the ruling – or at least the recommended outcome – was issued suggesting that he should be suspended 60 days for the misconduct. Interestingly, of course, the emphasis is not on the act of stealing the material – which is mentioned as being “sophomoric” – but on the lying to the Court about having done it. (Equally interestingly, the first ruling that was appealed by the disciplinary authority was that the lawyer only be admonished rather than disciplined.) You can read the full recommended ruling here.
In reading this new ruling, I also learned that the 90-day proposed suspension that was my primary focus during the 2014 Ethics Roadshow was ultimately reduced to only a 30-day suspension based on, at the time, Genis’s lack of any prior disciplinary history.
Now sticking with focusing on the “delay” aspect, this particular lawyer likely cares not a whit about how long this process has been pending because, as ABA/BNA also reported, he is presently serving a two-year federal prison sentence over willfully failing to pay his taxes.
As as an outsider and someone who is normally an advocate for lawyers, I find it harder to understand how it would take three years to go from start-to-finish on this one — that feels like much too long to resolve (and I’m kind of inclined to think that the 60-day suspension is still a bit light really).