State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorAn annual event, the report regarding lawyer discipline and admissions issues has just been released. The report covers multiple topics, including the types and amount of discipline meted out, the number of lawyers admitted to the State Bar of Arizona, trends in admissions, and more.

You can read the complete report here.

Arizona_Supreme_Court_SealAnd for some analysis, read what Patricia Sallen offers here. The former ethics counsel of the State Bar examines the lawyer-regulation data by the numbers.

Today is not only Change of Venue Friday; it’s also Friday the 13th. Therefore, I will tread lightly and offer nothing but images for your easy viewing.

Here are a few photos from Tuesday’s hearing at the Supreme Court regarding the ethics charges against three lawyers: Andrew Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander. The photos were mainly shot in the Court parking lot after the hearing. There, media interviewed, among others, independent counsel John Gleason, County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, activist Randy Parraz and respondent’s counsel Scott Zwillinger.

John Gleason, independent investigator, interviewed. April 10, 2012

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, April 10, 2012

You can read the Court’s complete ruling here.

Then, on Wednesday, Andrew Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon spoke at a press conference in downtown Phoenix.

Andrew Thomas, April 11, 2012

Lisa Aubuchon, April 11, 2012

All of the photos are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page. Have a great weekend.

Independent investigators John Gleason (at microphone) and James Sudler address the media after the Court's ruling, April 10, 2012

From the State Bar of Arizona:

Attorneys Disciplined for Using Positions to Punish Adversaries

PHOENIX – April 10, 2012 – A three member disciplinary panel has ordered attorneys Andrew Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon be disbarred for violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. A third attorney, Rachel Alexander, will be suspended for six months and one day.

The panel found that Thomas and Aubuchon used their positions as Maricopa County attorney and deputy county attorney to target political enemies. A 247-page order details how they ignored conflicts of interest and used their positions to burden and embarrass targeted individuals. The order also states they violated the Rules of Professional Conduct relating to perjury and violating court rules. Alexander, who also worked as a deputy county attorney, was found to have filed a lawsuit without completing a proper factual investigation.

Hon. William O'Neil (left), Presiding Disciplinary Judge, issues the panel's ruling, April 10, 2012

The case was tried over nine weeks before a hearing panel comprised of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and two volunteer panel members (one attorney and a member of the public). Forty eight witnesses testified and nearly 6,200 pages of exhibits were admitted.

In its ruling, the panel stated, “This case is replete with intentionally orchestrated malignant actions.” It went on to state there was an “absence of ethical behavior.”

The sanctions are scheduled to take effect May 10, 2012. Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander have 10 days to decide whether they will appeal the rulings to the Arizona Supreme Court. If they choose to do so, they can also request the discipline be stayed until the appeal is heard.

The panel’s final order can be read here.

Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil, left, announces the disbarment and discipline ruling as panel members attorney Mark Sifferman and Rev. John Hall (on right) listen.

News from the State Bar of Arizona:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 16, 2012

Contact: Rick DeBruhl, Chief Communications Officer

Phone: (602) 340-7335, Mobile: (602) 513-6385

E-Mail: rick.debruhl@staff.azbar.org

State Bar of Arizona Informs Minnesota of Disbarred Member’s

Continued Practice of Law

PHOENIX – Feb. 16, 2012 – The Minnesota Supreme Court has disbarred Erin Marie Wolff from the practice of law, after learning that she was disbarred in Arizona in 2009.

The State Bar of Arizona informed the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility of Wolff’s original disbarment that resulted from their investigation that found she had violated various provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Arizona Supreme Court issued an order, disbarring her from the practice of law on March 17, 2009.

While in Arizona, Wolff practiced under her married name, Erin M. Alavez.

Upon her disbarment in Arizona, she returned to Minnesota – where she was admitted to practice law in 1998 – and practiced law under her maiden name, Erin Marie Wolff. Wolff did not inform the Director of the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility of her disbarment in Arizona.

The Minnesota Supreme Court disbarred Wolff on Feb. 15, 2012, abiding to Rule 12(d), which calls for warranted reciprocal discipline.

Read the Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion.

Read the Arizona Supreme Court Order.

About the State Bar

The State Bar of Arizona is a non-profit organization that operates under the supervision of the Arizona Supreme Court. The Bar includes approximately 16,775 active attorneys and provides education and development programs for the legal profession and the public. Since 1933 the Bar and its members have been committed to serving the public by making sure the voices of all people in Arizona are heard in our justice system.

Two days ago, I wrote about a Mesa school district program that gets truant students in front of a justice of the peace. The goal is to get them on the straight and narrow. But the outcome is, necessarily, more misdemeanor convictions.

Last night, I read a disturbing Washington Post article that analyzed data from schools in that city and its suburbs. It found that African American students are disciplined far more often than other children.

Read the whole story here.

The story, by reporter Donna St. George, opens:

“Across the Washington area, black students are suspended and expelled two to five times as often as white students, creating disparities in discipline that experts say reflect a growing national problem. … Experts say disparities appear to have complex causes. A disproportionate number of black students live below the poverty line or with a single parent, factors that affect disciplinary patterns. But experts say those factors do not fully explain racial differences in discipline. Other contributing factors could include unintended bias, unequal access to highly effective teachers and differences in school leadership styles.”

Daniel J. Losen

As the story indicates, the challenge of equalizing discipline is a national one. So much so that a joint effort of the Departments of Justice and Education was announced last July to combat the school-to-prison pipeline.

According to the Department of Education press release:

“Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder today announced the launch of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a collaborative project between the Departments of Justice and Education that will address the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ and the disciplinary policies and practices that can push students out of school and into the justice system. The initiative aims to support good discipline practices to foster safe and productive learning environments in every classroom.”

The Post story explains the problematic nature of many of the suspendable offenses, which are labeled “soft” infractions—disrespect, defiance, insubordination, disruption and foul language. Some offenses, the reporter notes, allow administrators “significant latitude in how they respond.”

Discipline rates in DC schools (click for larger version)

And things really have changed in schools since many of us were kids: “Suspensions have surged nationally since the 1970s, fueled in part by a zero-tolerance culture.”

“‘We associate getting kicked out of school with something really really bad, but there has been a sea change in recent years in what kids get suspended for and how often we use suspension,’ said researcher Daniel J. Losen, who recently authored a report on suspension and disparities for the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado.”

Russell Skiba

The disparities are troubling, the reporter says, especially for parents who may already be suspicious of an unbalanced ledger in school administration:

“Lea Collins-Lee, an African American parent in Prince George’s [County], said her eldest son was first suspended a decade ago for placing an extra dessert on his cafeteria tray. Last month, her youngest son, now 18, was suspended for five days after a tussle that she said he did not start.

“‘I really do think it’s harder for black kids,’ she said. ‘If they get into a fight, it’s a gang fight. If white kids get into a fight, it’s a disagreement.’”

For those who suggest a suspension may be no big deal, a recent Texas study drew a stark line between school discipline and the likelihood of dropping out and ending up in the juvenile justice system. And as I noted Tuesday, a criminal record may be forever. (Here is another study examining disparities in the Virginia schools.)

In the Post article, a researcher answered in advance one of the questions many may have:

“‘It is not just a matter of kids coming from poverty,’ [Indiana University’s Russell] Skiba said. ‘Poor kids do get suspended more. But that does not explain why poor black kids get suspended more than poor white kids and why affluent black kids get suspended more than affluent white kids.’”

Angela Ciolfi

Donna St. George quotes another researcher, Angela Ciolfi of the Legal Aid Justice Center, which published the study of Virginia schools:

“I think people assume it has to be this way. [But], when schools pay attention to who gets in trouble and why, they find they are able to reduce misbehavior overall and also address the discipline gap.”

What do you think of this discipline gap? Do you see it in Arizona? And for those in the juvenile justice system, what do you think of the notion that wielding too much discipline in schools provides a gateway to the courthouse?

Recently, the State Bar of Arizona has been more communicative about discipline actions taken against errant lawyers. So rather than wait for the summaries to appear in the good ’ol Arizona Attorney Magazine, they send out press releases on the newest orders from the Supreme Court of Arizona.

Here is what they distributed yesterday.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 30, 2010

Contact: Rick DeBruhl, Chief Communications Officer

Phone: (602) 340-7335, Mobile: (602)513-6385

E-Mail: rick.debruhl@staff.azbar.org

Failure to Protect Client Interest Leads to Suspension for Three Attorneys

PHOENIX – The Supreme Court of Arizona has ordered that Daniel Inserra (Bar No. 017284), Victoria R. Miranda (Bar No. 018511) and Paul M. Weich (Bar No. 014089) be suspended from practicing law.

After conducting investigations in the three unrelated cases, the State Bar of Arizona found that these three attorneys failed to protect the public, the profession, and the administration of justice. The State Bar filed a formal complaint with the Disciplinary Clerk of the Supreme Court of Arizona for each.

In the matter of Daniel Inserra, the State Bar of Arizona found that he violated numerous provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct that included: failure to act with reasonable diligence, failure to protects client’s interest, failure to adequately communicate with clients, failure to respond to demand for information, and charging an unreasonable fee. A total of three Counts were filed against Inserra.

As stated in the Supreme Court of Arizona’s Order, Inserra is suspended from the practice of law for a period of 15 months, retroactive to Feb. 7, 2009 and is required to serve two years of probation with terms to be determined at time of reinstatement. In addition, Inserra shall pay 15 hundred dollars in restitution charges as well as all costs and expenses incurred in this matter by the State Bar of Arizona, the Disciplinary Commission, the Supreme Court, and the Disciplinary Clerk’s Office. Inserra is not allowed to practice law during his suspension.

In the matter of Victoria R. Miranda, the State Bar of Arizona found that she violated numerous provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct that included: failure to act with reasonable diligence, failure to protects client’s interest, failure to adequately communicate with clients, failure to refund unearned fees, engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation and practicing law while suspended.  A total of three Counts were filed against Miranda.

Miranda’s suspension is effective July 17, 2010 as outlined in the Supreme Court of Arizona’s order. She is required to serve two years of probation with terms to be determined at time of reinstatement. In addition, Miranda shall pay restitution charges in the amount of two thousand dollars as well as all costs and expenses incurred in this matter by the State Bar of Arizona, the Disciplinary Commission, the Supreme Court, and the Disciplinary Clerk’s Office. Miranda is not allowed to practice law during her suspension.

In the matter of Paul M. Weich, the State Bar of Arizona found that he violated numerous provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct that included: failure to comply with State Bar’s investigation, failure to act with reasonable diligence, failure to protects client’s interest, and practicing law while suspended.  A total of two Counts were filed against Weich.

As stated in the Supreme Court of Arizona’s Order, Weich is suspended from the practice of law for a period of two years, retroactive to Dec. 29, 2009 and is required to serve two years of probation that must include participation in the Member Assistance Program (MAP), upon reinstatement. In addition, Weich shall pay the State Bar 1,651.45 dollars, together with interest at the legal rate from the date of the judgment.

To view the Daniel Inserra decision, visit:

http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/36/2010_Scanned/JOandOrders/InserraJO6172010.pdf

To view the Victoria R. Miranda decision, visit:

http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/36/2010_Scanned/JOandOrders/MirandaJO6172010.pdf

To view the Paul M. Weich decision, visit:

http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/36/2010_Scanned/JOandOrders/WeichJO6172010.pdf

About the State Bar

The State Bar of Arizona is a non-profit organization that operates under the supervision of the Arizona Supreme Court. The Bar includes approximately 16,000 active attorneys and provides education and development programs for the legal profession and the public. Since 1933 the Bar and its members have been committed to serving the public by making sure the voices of all people in Arizona are heard in our justice system.

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