Legal Ethics

Lawyer is Suspended Over Hit-and-Run for Which He Initially Blamed His Wife and 'Road Raged' Bikers


A Vermont lawyer who reportedly is a former traffic court judge caused an accident in September 2007 by braking abruptly after passing two bikers. Then he blamed the crash on his wife—falsely claiming that she had been the driver—and the “road raged” bikers for the fact that he didn’t stop at the scene.

But Melvin Neisner Jr. has been suspended, rather than disbarred, because mitigating factors outweighed aggravating factors concerning his violation of a legal ethics rule that says it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in “serious crime,” explains the Vermont Supreme Court in a written opinion last week.

A companion criminal opinion affirming his conviction and sentence on three of the four counts in the hit-and-run case provides additional details about the accident.

Among the mitigating factors in Neisner’s legal ethics case were his overall cooperation, lack of any prior disciplinary history, community involvement and alcohol treatment. He also admitted, after initially persuading his wife to cooperate with his story that she was the driver and seeing her arrested and charged in the case, that he was in fact responsible, according to the two opinions.

The supreme court extended the penalty recommended by the Vermont Professional Responsibility Board Hearing Panel, suspending Neisner for two years instead of one. However, because Neisner voluntarily agreed to an interim suspension starting in January 2009 and the supreme court said the interim suspension would apply toward the penalty, it appears that he could soon apply for reinstatement.

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog.

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