Monday, February 21, 2005

I wonder what you would need to do to get suspended?

Of course the first thing I do when I get my copy of Wisconsin Lawyer is to flip to the Lawyer Discipline section. You can read it here. The winner this month has to be John Birdsall. Esquire Birdsall is the president of the WI Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a past chairman of the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of WI. You can read all about him and his practice here. So what did this noble lawyer do? Well he had a client who was accused of attempted murder after pointing a gun at the head of his girlfriend and pulling the trigger but the gun did not fire (presumably the gun was unloaded). To get rid of this nasty case, he decided to meet with the (now ex) girlfriend and secretly videotape the meeting in which he encouraged her to recant her statement. But to make matters even worse he decided to make sure that the accused would show up after the meeting had taken place and then continue to interview (pressure anyone??) her with him there even though he knew that his client had an explicit no-contact provision in the order granting him bail. Amazingly (it really is hard to believe isn't it?) his tactics worked, and she recanted. So what kind of punishment does one of Wisconsin's leaders in criminal defense law get for these actions?? Jail time?; his license revoked?, his license suspended? Naaahhhh. He got the super-harsh "public reprimand" instead. So what was the end result of this fine display of lawyering? Well his client was acquitted of 1st degree attempted homicide but was found guilty of violating the no-contact provision and sentenced to 5 years in prison. And Birdsall pled guilty to contempt of a court order - the equivalent of a traffic ticket and paid the fine - oh yeah and now he has been "publicly reprimanded." You can read the court's decision here. At least I am feeling a little better that my license won't be revoked for a minor screw-up.

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