Legal Ethics

Former DA gets license probation; he denied telling defense lawyers he'd 'make sure they never got hired' again

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A former district attorney in Texas has been placed on a probated suspension for a year after he was accused of telling defense lawyers he would “shut down” their practices for raising issues of prosecutorial misconduct.

A State Bar of Texas Grievance Committee panel imposed a probated suspension on former Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood in a March 5 decision, report the San Antonio Express-News, News4SA and KSAT.

One of the lawyers allegedly threatened by LaHood, Joe Gonzales, later ran against him for district attorney and won in November.

LaHood had denied making the threat and also denied telling defense lawyers he would “make sure they never got hired on another case again in Bexar County,” according to a court filing by the two defense lawyers. A judge, however, had testified that it did happen.

The panel judgment indicates that LaHood could appeal the probated suspension.

The panel’s findings of fact don’t get into specifics. Rather, the findings conclude that LaHood engaged in actions that had no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay or burden a third person. The findings also say LaHood made an extrajudicial statement that could materially prejudice an ongoing case.

The Commission for Lawyer Discipline was more specific in its December 2017 petition for discipline.

Former Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The commission had alleged that LaHood told defense lawyers during an in-chambers conference that he would do whatever it took to shut down their law practices if they made a claim of prosecutorial misconduct. The statements were made in proceedings related to a murder case.

The commission also had claimed that LaHood made improper statements to the press in the case, including statements that the defendant acted with “sheer callousness and cold bloodedness.”

LaHood emphasized in an interview with News4A that he will still be able to practice law during the probation period. “There’s been no blip in me being able to practice law,” LaHood said.

LaHood told the broadcast station that the panel essentially found he did not make the threat.

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