Legal Ethics

Lawyer Represents Convicted Boyfriend, Gets Into Battle of Wills With Probation Dept., is Suspended

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An Arizona criminal defense lawyer has been suspended from practice for six months by a state supreme court order (PDF), followed by two years of probation, for representing a man with whom she already had a relationship.

In addition to damaging his case during a battle of wills with his probation officer as she tried to move him into her home, Cynthia Leyh also failed to inform the court of important facts as she sought to modify or terminate her boyfriend’s probation, according to hearing officer’s report (PDF) filed in June.

Although Walter Stringer then lived across the street from Leyh, he could not move into her home without his probation officer’s permission. And the probation officer not only refused to give permission but sought to prevent her charge from living there, testifying in the ethics proceeding that she felt Leyh was a bad influence on Stringer and could hurt his efforts to comply with his probation, the report explains.

In fact, the hearing officer found, “the trumping of respondent’s common sense and duty of candor to the tribunal by her feelings for Mr. Stringer, in the end, contributed to his failure to comply with the terms and conditions of his probation,” as she “facilitated Mr. Stringer’s violation of the terms of his probation by allowing him to be at her home when he should not have been.”

Stringer eventually waived his probation and was sentenced to an unspecified prison term, resolving another potential ethical issue for Leyh, had she been called upon to testify concerning his curfew violations while he was at her home, the hearing officer’s report notes.

The report was adopted by the Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Arizona in a September report (PDF). The disciplinary commission report was then relied on by the supreme court in its decision to suspend Leyh for six months.

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog.

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