Legal Ethics

Lawyer Suspended for 6 Months Over 3rd Drunken-Driving Conviction

An Iowa attorney’s law license has been suspended for at least six months after he was convicted for the third time of driving while intoxicated, even though there was no evidence that the felony or his admitted alcoholism had any direct relationship to the longtime practitioner’s legal work or adversely affected clients. In fact, according to the opinion, Jeffrey Mark Johnson, who currently has a job redacting documents, was not practicing law at the time of the offense.

Arguing for a reprimand, attorney Johnson testified that he has been sober since October 2007 and now lives in a structured rehabilitation program that requires alcohol treatment and regular testing to prove that he has not imbibed. But his prior disciplinary history and violation of ethical rules that prohibit attorneys from engaging in conduct that reflects adversely on their professional capabilities or is prejudicial to the administration of justice requires more than a reprimand, the Iowa Supreme Court says in a written opinion today.

“It makes no difference that respondent was not acting as a lawyer at the time of his misconduct,” the Supreme Court states, quoting from its opinion in a 1984 case. “Lawyers do not shed their professional responsibility in their personal lives.”

A disciplinary panel had recommended a minimum nine-month suspension. Under the court’s ruling, Johnson was suspended indefinitely but can reapply for admission after nine months. To regain his law license, he must provide medical documentation that he has maintained his sobriety and is fit to practice law.

Johnson, who has no business listing on the state’s judicial branch’s attorney directory, could not be reached for comment by the ABA Journal.

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog.

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