Failed courtroom ID ploy cited in suspension of Colorado lawyer
Posted Nov 26, 2013 6:04 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A Colorado lawyer has been suspended in part because of a failed courtroom ID ploy.
The Legal Profession Blog links to the Colorado Supreme Court summary (PDF) of the ethics allegations against Denver lawyer Linda Marie Lee, who will have to serve only six months of a year-and-a-day suspension if she successfully completes a two-year probation period.
According to the supreme court summary, Lee believed her client had been misidentified in a juvenile theft case, so she arranged for her client to sit in the back of the courtroom and for a friend of the client to sit at the counsel’s table. During opening statements, the summary alleges, Lee pointed to the client’s friend and said, “My client is innocent.”
The ploy didn’t work out when the victim correctly identified the defendant sitting in the gallery. A judge granted a new trial and found Lee in contempt.
In a second case, the court summary says, Lee transferred two attorney fee payments to her law firm’s operating account a day after she deposited them in her trust account, though the fees hadn’t yet been fully earned.
A disciplinary judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Lee for a year and a day, with six months to be served and the remainder stayed if she completes a two-year probation. During that time, Lee will have to attend ethics school, submit to financial monitoring and work with an attorney monitor.
Lee’s website says she has appeared on Good Morning America, Nancy Grace and Extra in connection with her representation as legal counsel. She represented a Denver man who claimed to have worked on a reality TV pitch with the Denver dad accused of falsely telling authorities his son was in a runaway balloon, the New York Times reported in 2009.
Lee tells the ABA Journal in a Dec. 20 interview that she won an acquittal in the retrial after her client's accuser admitted lying. Her client was a straight A student, she said, and being swept up in the juvenile system would have affected his entire life.
"This was one of the sweetest kids you’ve ever seen in your life," Lee said. "I truly believed he was 100 percent innocent."
Lee says she didn't realize the ID ploy was unethical. "I hope that people learn from my mistakes because we all make them," she said.
The ethics case has "been a very trying trying thing," she adds. "But you know what, it doesn’t change who you are or what you’ve accomplished. I’m blessed. I’ll be back after six months. I'll do it a little different next time."
Updated on Dec. 20 to add Lee's comments.