Legal Ethics

Lawyer Who Stole $650 to Spend on Drugs Shouldn't Be Disbarred, Dissent Says


Attorney Juan Jesus Rodriguez admittedly behaved despicably by stealing at least $650 from low-income clients.

And, when Minnesota lawyer disciplinary authorities caught up with him, he didn’t attempt to prove any mitigating factors or contest disbarment, saying that an aspect of his current participation in the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups is to accept responsibility for his wrongdoing.

Thus, the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month to disbar Rodriguez “appears to be a just decision. But it is not the right decision,” says a dissenting judge in the court’s written opinion (PDF).

The state bar’s goal of protecting the public would have been just as well-served by a suspension of at least five years, and that would have given both Rodriguez and others incentive to continue fighting their substance-abuse battle, writes Justice Paul Anderson. Disbarment, he says, also has no additional deterrent value.

“Moreover, if Rodriguez recovers from this addiction, successfully seeks reinstatement, and returns to the practice of law, he will not be the first lawyer in Minnesota to have done so.”

Hat tip: The Whistleblower (Star Tribune).

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Sober Since 1981, Lawyer Has Helped Many Others With Wide Array of Issues”

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-Con Earns Law Degree, Hopes to Help Others Like Herself”

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