Legal Ethics

Child porn possession convictions mean automatic disbarment, state supreme court rules

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A conviction for possession of child pornography is automatic grounds for disbarment, the California Supreme Court has held.

The court, in a unanimous ruling (PDF) Thursday, said that keeping sexual images of children constitutes an act of moral turpitude that makes a lawyer unfit for practice, the Associated Press reports.

“The knowing possession of child pornography is a serious breach of the duties of respect and care that all adults owe to all children, and it shows such a flagrant disrespect for the law and for societal norms that continuation of a convicted attorney’s state bar membership would be likely to undermine public confidence in and respect for the legal profession,” Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for the court.

The ruling came in the case of Gary D. Grant, a former Army lawyer at the Los Alamitos Army Reserve Base in Orange County who had a civil litigation practice.

Grant pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly possessing child pornography in 2009 after being identified in a federal investigation that tracked visitors to child porn websites.

Grant, who admitted having an addiction to adult pornography, said he had inadvertently downloaded images of girls under the age of 16, but had immediately deleted them, the Los Angeles Times reports. He said he pleaded guilty because he and his lawyer believed that viewing even a fleeting image of unsolicited child pornography violated the law.

A state bar judge had recommended that Grant be disbarred. But a bar review board recommended that he be suspended for two years and placed on probation.

The Supreme Court, however, pointed out that Grant pleaded guilty to knowingly possessing child pornography. “The only question here is whether that crime, as admitted by him, constitutes moral turpitude per se. It does,” Corrigan wrote.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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