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Legal Ethics

Lawyer Reprimanded for Continued Use of Westlaw After Leaving Prosecutor Job

Posted Oct 16, 2012 8:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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In a case of reciprocal discipline, the Oregon Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded a lawyer who continued to use a government-paid Westlaw account after he left his job as a prosecutor.

Everett Walton used the account for about 14 months when he became a legal aid lawyer in Hawaii, according to the Oregon opinion (PDF). He had tried without success to cancel the three-year, flat-rate contract negotiated when he worked as a special prosecutor for the Republic of Palau. The Legal Profession Blog and the National Law Journal (reg. req.) have stories.

The Oregon ruling was a reciprocal discipline based on a prior public reprimand in Hawaii. Oregon disciplinary authorities had sought a six-month suspension, but the state supreme court rejected the recommendation as too harsh.

The Oregon opinion pointed out that the Republic of Palau was obligated to pay Westlaw whether or not Walton used the service. Walton had “an unblemished record in 35 years as a practicing lawyer,” according to the opinion, and his conduct didn’t seriously reflect on his fitness to practice.

“The accused was not charged with a crime,” the opinion said, “he did not benefit personally from his misconduct (the beneficiaries were the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and its indigent clients), and his misconduct did not cause any actual or potential harm.” He did, however, engage in conduct involving dishonesty, the court said.

Walton told the National Law Journal he accepted the ruling. "I think it was a good decision," he said.

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