Legal Ethics

'Abusive, disruptive and threatening' statements lead to lawyer's censure

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A Montana lawyer will be publicly censured next month for “abusive, disruptive and threatening” comments to another lawyer.

Jeffrey Michael of Billings will be censured on Jan. 7 and his license will be placed on probation for a year, the Billings Gazette reports. He will also have to submit to a “counseling assessment with a focus on anger” and complete recommended counseling or treatment. The story links to the discipline order (PDF) by the Montana Supreme Court.

Michael was accused of making the abusive comments on voice mail and in person to Elizabeth Honaker, a Billings lawyer representing one of Michael’s former clients in an appeal of his conviction. Honaker had alleged Michael coerced the arson client to make a no-contest plea.

According to Honaker, Michael confronted her about the appeal in October 2011 and complained that the case was costing him time and money. Michael allegedly told Honaker she better watch her back, or something to that effect, according to court records cited by the Billings Gazette. He denied making that statement.

Honaker filed a disciplinary complaint, leading Michael to leave a January 2012 voice mail for Honaker threatening to wipe her out, court records allege.

Michael testified he did not intend to harm Honaker and he felt harassed by her involvement in the criminal appeal for his former client, the story says.

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