Attorney E-Newsletter

March 2012

Board Welcomes Patricia Hastie

By order dated February 24, 2012, the Supreme Court named Patricia Hastie of Philadelphia as a new non-lawyer member of the Disciplinary Board.

Ms. Hastie is a partner in Opus Search Partners, Inc., where she leads search assignments in healthcare and higher education. Prior to joining Opus, she spent 20 years in private practice as a psychotherapist. She is a Founding Partner of Globalislocal, a partnership of women leaders investing in the empowerment of women and children living in poverty. In 2007, she was appointed by the Philadelphia Bar Association to serve on the Investigative Division of the Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention. She holds a BSW from Temple University and an MSS from Bryn Mawr College.

Rule 205 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement provides that the Disciplinary Board shall consist of eleven members of the bar and two non-lawyer members. The other non-lawyer member spot is currently vacant. A listing of the members of the Board is here.

Sink the Monitor

In January’s collection of most notable cases of 2011, we included the case of David M. Gilliland, 17 DB 2010. He committed conduct which the Disciplinary Board found to warrant suspension, but he was placed on a stayed suspension with probation under the oversight of a practice monitor, due in part to his service with the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Juvenile Court Project.

Unfortunately, the story does not end well. Gilliland was laid off from his position with the juvenile court project, and failed to make contact with attorneys he suggested might be willing to serve as his practice monitor. He made no effort to secure employment or practice, stating that doing so might adversely affect his unemployment compensation checks. He failed to pay the costs of his disciplinary proceeding up until the date of a probation violation hearing. He did not pick up his mail and lived in transition, rarely appearing at his apartment address.

Based on the information adduced at the probation violation hearing, the presiding member of the Disciplinary Board concluded that he had not complied with the probation order. Despite observing that he claimed to be and appeared to be suffering from depression, the member concluded the stay should be lifted and the three-year suspension imposed. The Supreme Court did so by order dated March 1, 2012.

Tears in Mitigation

In a Massachusetts disciplinary case, In Re Thomas F. Patch, a lawyer found a unique way to avoid disbarment. The Respondent was convicted of three counts of violating a protective order, criminal harassment, and intimidating a witness – not a pattern of actions one would normally associate with emotional fragility. However, the judge who heard the case brought a unique perspective:

I had an opportunity to observe the respondent for about forty-five minutes, including about thirty minutes for his own oral argument, and I could not help but think that he has unresolved emotional issues that in all likelihood contributed to his difficulties. He was reduced to tears twice during the hearing before me. Although he did not present any evidence of mitigation to the hearing panel, I honestly believe it exists and I am not inclined to order disbarment for this reason.

Instead of ordering disbarment, the Court suspended Patch indefinitely, retroactive to his temporary suspension nearly five years earlier. The court also stated “If the respondent applies for reinstatement, he must satisfy the board that he has addressed his emotional issues.”

And here we thought there is no crying in discipline. Perhaps we will see increased use of the Orbison defense.

Third Circuit Puts the Brief in Briefing

The Third Circuit wants lawyers to confine themselves to page/word limitations in briefs set forth in Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(7). Noting that “motions to exceed the page/word limitations for briefs are filed in approximately twenty-five percent of cases on appeal, and that seventy-one percent of those motions seek to exceed the page/word limitations by more than twenty percent,” the Court adopted a standing order appointing a three-judge panel to rule on motions to exceed word limits, adding that such motions are “strongly disfavored and will be granted only upon demonstration of extraordinary circumstances.”

Get the point, lawyers? Get to the point.

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