Legal Ethics

Lawyer held in contempt for email now faces ethics charges

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A former assistant public defender in Montana is facing an ethics complaint for his alleged reaction to a judge’s refusal to accept a plea deal.

The lawyer, Mark Epperson of Glendive, sent an email to a prosecutor, the court clerk and the judge’s judicial assistant saying he and his client wouldn’t show up for the scheduled trial, according to the ethics complaint (PDF) filed Jan. 13 by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The Billings Gazette has a story.

“One more thing,” the email said. “Neither [my client] nor I will show up if the judge refuses to vacate the trial set for July 8, and he can throw my ass in jail for contempt if he chooses.”

The email was intended to prevent the trial from going forward, the ethics complaint alleges.

The judge held Epperson in contempt and fined him $250. The ethics complaint accuses Epperson of conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal, knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Epperson told the Billings Gazette on Friday that he was not aware of the complaint. He declined to comment on the email, but said another lawyer stepped in to represent the client.

Epperson is no longer an assistant public defender. He works as a family law attorney and an attorney for a county domestic violence program, according to the Billings Gazette.

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