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Legal Ethics

Outsider Calif. ‘Death to Meth’ DA Faces Disciplinary Trial, Sues Bar and Lawyers re Claimed Bias

Posted Oct 15, 2012 12:00 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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First licensed to practice law in 1987, Jon Alexander followed an unlikely career path to be elected the district attorney of California's Del Norte County.

After overcoming his methamphetamine addiction and serving time in jail, he narrowly won election on a "Death to Meth" campaign. Now, after less than two years in office, he is facing an attorney disciplinary trial on legal ethics charges that is expected to last two weeks. It is apparently the first time that the California State Bar has pursued a case against a sitting district attorney, the Associated Press reports.

Legal disciplinary authorities contend that Alexander, while still a public defender, accepted a loan from a defense attorney and made a loan to an assistant chief probation officer. He is also accused of improper contact with a criminal defendant whose counsel wasn't present. He says he paid the defense lawyer back before taking office as DA, considers the probation officer a member of his family and had only a brief conversation with the defendant about a drug diversion treatment program after the woman, whose lawyer had previously authorized her to talk with the DA, barged into his office.

Attorney Kurt Melchior represents Alexander. "The State Bar is siding with his political opponents," he said last week, calling the ethics charges against Alexander "baseless."

Meanwhile, Alexander filed a civil suit last week in San Francisco Superior Court against the state bar, its office of the chief trial counsel, and several lawyers—including a predecessor in the Del Norte DA's office—contending that the ethics case is not only politically motivated but driven by incorrect factual allegations and bias against a former meth addict, as a Courthouse News article details.

Although Alexander says he has been clean for nearly a decade, he contends that his opponents are treating him differently than other lawyers and subjecting him to additional scrutiny and criticism because of his former drug addiction.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Bar Seeks DA’s Disbarment, Cites Hair Transplant Loan, Money Given to Friend and Ex Parte Contact"

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