Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 58789
Attorney Name Walters, Richard J.
DBP Docket No. 76 DB 1998
Supreme Court Docket No. 424 D.D. No. 3
County Allegheny
Disciplinary Counsel Angelea Allen Mitas
Counsel for Respondent Dennis M. Blackwell & Frederick A. Sproull
Decision Date 2000-12-14
Effective Date 2001-01-14
Case Digest Respondent was convicted on January 30, 1998. After a non-jury trial in Allegheny County, on January 30, 1998, Respondent was found guilty but mentally ill on charges of harassment, harassment by communication, and terroristic threats. After a lengthy disciplinary hearing, at which both Respondent and Petitioner presented expert testimony in regard to Respondent's bipolar disorder, the Hearing Committee recommended to the Board a three year suspension to be stayed in its entirety and a three year term of probation with conditions. No exceptions to the Hearing Committee Report were filed by either Petitioner or Respondent. The Disciplinary Board recommended to the Supreme Court that Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for five years. The dissent by four members of the Disciplinary Board recommended a three year suspension. The Supreme Court order entered followed the dissent. The dissent relied heavily on precedent set in In Re Anonymous No. 104 DB 1995 wherein that Respondent was found guilty of similar charges, and was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The dissent pointed out that in both cases, Respondent's conduct resulted from the same bipolar disorder and in neither case was the misconduct related to his practice of law. The Disciplinary Board in its Report stated that the sum of the expert testimony indicated that Respondent had met the standard for consideration of a psychiatric illness as a mitigating factor under Braun. However, although Respondent was currently exhibiting no impairment in his ability to function as an attorney, and his prognosis for remission was good as long as he adhered to his medicinal regimen, avoided alcohol and illegal drugs, and maintained a regular schedule, he was at risk of a relapse as is any person with this particular disorder. Respondent had a prior informal admonition.
Rule Violation(s) 203(b)(1), Pa.R.D.E.
Discipline Imposed Suspension three years
Points of Law Respondent's mitigation met the Braun causal connection. The Disciplinary Board's concern regarding Respondent's relapse resulted in the recommendation of a five year suspension, with four Board Members dissenting for a three year suspension based on precedent set in a similar case, with a recommendation. The Supreme Court followed the dissenting recommendation.
Report/Opinion Download