Legal Ethics

Order says intoxicated lawyer who snoozed and disrupted CLE seminar wrongly denied the accusations

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A Virginia lawyer accused of snoozing and talking at a video screen while intoxicated at a continuing legal education seminar has been suspended for failing to correct a “misapprehension” when he denied the allegations, according to an updated suspension order released on Tuesday.

Wayne Hartke was suspended for six months and ordered to enroll in a two-year treatment program, according to earlier coverage of the initial summary order in the case. The initial order did not specify which ethics rules were violated. The Legal Profession Blog covered the summary order.

According to stipulated facts in the updated order, dated April 17, Hartke was a walk-in registrant at the January 2014 CLE program in Tyson’s Corner, a course for lawyers who wanted to become guardians ad litem for children. He arrived late, and shortly after, he fell asleep and began snoring. The snoring was so loud and disruptive that the site coordinator had to enter the room to awaken Hartke.

During the afternoon session, Hartke moved to the front of the room and began talking loudly at the video screen, according to the stipulated facts. The site coordinator was once again summoned, but Hartke’s outbursts continued. He was led from the room by an attendee, who said Hartke had a strong smell of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet and admitted he had been drinking.

Hartke had originally told a bar investigator he wasn’t sleeping and snoring during the morning CLE session, and he wasn’t intoxicated at the afternoon session, though he admitted speaking out loud at the video screen. In a written response to the bar, he said he consumed only one drink during the lunch break. He later admitted his representations weren’t accurate.

The lawyer stipulated that he violated two ethics rules. The first, Rule 8.1 (b), says lawyers may not fail to disclose a fact necessary to correct a misapprehension in connection with a disciplinary matter. The second, Rule 8.4 (a), says lawyers may not violate ethics rules through the acts of another. He was not originally charged with violation of Rule 8.1 (b). Other ethics charges were dropped.

He previously told the ABA Journal he was “greatly distressed by the determination.”

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