Lawyer’s Angry Conversation with Law Clerk Leads to Suspension
An angry conversation with a law clerk has led to a one-year federal disbarment for a lawyer in the Western District of Louisiana.
In a per curiam opinion (PDF), the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the punishment barring lawyer R. Michael Moity Jr. from practice in the federal court for one year, reports Legal Blog Watch, citing a report on the Legal Profession Blog.
Moity was suspended primarily for the conversation with the law clerk and for making misrepresentations to the court in a contempt hearing on the matter. The misrepresentations regarded a prior state court contempt hearing in which Moity was ordered to undergo ethics training, but failed to comply with the initial punishment.
In the telephone conversation that led to Moity’s suspension, law clerk Stacey Blanke called to find out why Moity had not shown up for a pretrial conference. That prompted Moity to inquire why Blanke had not mentioned the need to appear in two previous phone messages referencing the conference. “Moity started yelling,” the opinion says, referring to the law clerk’s notes of the conversation, and he spoke “in a very angry tone.” When the clerk mentioned that Moity hadn’t returned the previous calls, he reportedly said, “Do you know how many calls I get??? I’m swamped! You think you’re busy?”
Moity later argued that the sanction was too severe for a “curt conversation.” The 5th Circuit disagreed. “The conversation reported by the magistrate judge’s law clerk displayed severe disrespect to the court by the anger and harsh tone,” the opinion said. “This was followed by additional evidence of a lack of candor in sworn testimony when the very serious matter of a contempt hearing was held.”