Thursday, July 12, 2007

INNOCENT: NC Bar Disbarment Order & Comments

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007

The Raleigh N&O reports:

A disciplinary panel of the N.C. State Bar has issued its written order disbarring former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

The panel last month said it was disbarring Nifong for misconduct in his handling of rape and related charges against three former Duke University lacrosse players. Nifong withheld important DNA evidence from the players' lawyers and misled them and a judge about this, the panel said.

The disbarment takes effect 30 days after Nifong is served with the order, which was filed Wednesday.[…]
At the actual order can be read (pdf).

It’s very detailed, well-organized and devestating in its descriptions of Nifong's conduct. Excerpts from the Bar’s order:
Nifong’s misconduct resulted in significant actual harm to Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, and their families.

Nifong’s misconduct resulted in significant actual harm to the legal profession.

Nifong’s misconduct resulted in prejudice to and significant actual harm to the justice system.

Nifong’s false statements to the Grievance Committee of the North Carolina State Bar interfered with the State Bar’s ability to regulate attorneys and therefore undermined the privilege of lawyers in this State to remain self-regulating. […]

The Hearing Committee has considered all alternative and finds that no discipline other than disbarment will adequately protect the public, the judicial system and the profession, given the clear demonstration of dishonest conduct, multiple violations, the pattern of dishonesty established by the evidence, and Nifong’s failure to recognize or acknowledge the wrongfulness of his conduct with regard to withholding of the DNA evidence and making false representations to opposing counsel and to the Court […]
A few first thoughts - - -

The Bar’s order reads like a KC Johnson post. Treat the order as a “must read.”

The matter of “false representations to … the Court” will be looked at again by Judge Smith later this month at a criminal contempt hearing for Nifong.

It’s not hard to predict how Judge Smith will rule. The question is what penalty he will impose.

The order states that Nifong took over direction of the case on March 24. That and the Bar’s finding of “significant actual harm” to the three young men and their families greatly strengthens the already strong case for civil action Seligmann, Finnerty, Evans and their families have against Nifong.

The order sets a standard for the Whichard Committee. The Baker and Chalmers’ “covered-dish” reports serve as disgracefully low bars examining DPD conduct in response to the Hoax.

The State Bar has just given the Whichard Committee a high bar below which it dare not fall.

If it does, the committee will expose itself to the same kind of public ridicule that greeted Baker and Chalmers’ “reports.”

It’s a good day for justice in North Carolina.


Ralph Phelan said...

I think the single most significant phrase in it is in the "Findings of Fact Regarding Discipline" part 7:
"undermined the privilege of lawyers in this state to remain self regulating."

Maybe I'm being overly cynical(*) but I think that can be fairly translated as:
"You jerk! You screwed up so bad that even the NC State Legislature couldn't ignore it. You've done a lot of awful things, but risking our really sweet self-regulation deal is by far the worst. For that, you get everything we can throw at you."

(*) Although as I mentioned in another thread, with regards to this case no matter how cynical I get I just can't keep up.

Anonymous said...

It is commonly considered that one of the criteria of a "profession" is that is sets standards for its own people, and disciplines them when they fail to live up to the standards. ( As opposed to govenment regulation). Frankly, this episode has restored my faith ( a little bit) in the process and certainly has HUGELY increased my respect for the NC State Bar.