Legal Ethics

Prosecutor and Defense Lawyer Hit with 30-Day Suspensions re Contentious Case, Must Pay $63K

Both the prosecutor and the defense lawyer in a contentious negligent homicide case have been hit with 30-day suspensions and required to pay a combined $63,000 to help cover the cost of their attorney disciplinary proceedings.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court imposed the penalties on Friday, in separate opinions concerning the conduct of assistant district attorney Paul W. Humphrey (PDF) of the Dane County Prosecutor’s Office and defense counsel Joseph Sommers (PDF).

Neither lawyer had any prior disciplinary history. But Humphrey violated discovery rules, the court found, and Sommers disrupted a court hearing, accused a judge of running a kangaroo court and contended Humphrey and judges were trying to frame his client. When subsequently accused of violating legal ethics rules for attorneys, Sommers “made an informed tactical decision to continue to try to prove misconduct by others in a disciplinary proceeding that was intended to focus on his own alleged misconduct,” the court wrote.

The court also hit the two attorneys with hefty sanctions, requiring Humphrey to pay $16,000 and requiring Sommers to pay half of the $94,000 racked up on his side in their related disciplinary matters.

The discipline imposed against Sommers was less than what a referee had recommended, while the discipline against Humphrey was more severe, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.

The defendant was ultimately acquitted in the criminal case, which concerned a fatal 2001 car crash.

A tip of the hat to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Proof & Hearsay blog.

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