- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A committee of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended that New Orleans City Councilman James Gray be disbarred or have his law license suspended for at least three years for mishandling four of his private law cases, violating a dozen ethical rules in the process.

The New Orleans Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/NWyi4Z) the final decision on punishment, if any, is up to the state Supreme Court.

The committee, which held three hearings about the complaints, found Gray didn’t provide “competent representation” and failed to communicate with clients or return their files. He also did not cooperate with the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel that investigated him.

Messages to Gray’s office were not returned Wednesday. His attorney could not be reached.

None of the cases involved Gray’s work on the council.

The recommendation of the committee, which is made up of two lawyers and a public member, is the first step in determining Gray’s possible punishment. The committee’s recommendation will be sent to a second, appellate committee made up of three members of the disciplinary board.

That appellate committee also will hear oral arguments before making a recommendation to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The high court ultimately will decide what action to take against the veteran lawyer and recently re-elected City Council member.

Jordan Huck, staff attorney for the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, said the appeal process could take “at least a couple of months.”

Gray, 67, won his first full term on the council last month, taking 53 percent of the vote in the Feb. 1 primary. A Marine Corps veteran and chairman of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, Gray won his first election victory a year earlier to fill the seat vacated by Jon Johnson, who stepped down after pleading guilty to conspiring to funnel federal rebuilding grant funds to his 2007 state Senate campaign.

Gray is married to Juvenile Court Chief Judge Ernestine Gray.

If the Supreme Court upholds the committee’s disbarment recommendation, Gray won’t be able to practice law, though he could retain his council seat.

In its opinion, written by New Orleans lawyer Michael Joseph Ecuyer, the three-member committee upheld allegations detailed in four separate complaints filed by three former clients and the father of a former client.

It found Gray violated 12 ethical rules for lawyers, including failing to provide competent counsel, act with “reasonable diligence and promptness,” keep a client “reasonably informed,” surrender a client’s papers and property, refund money where appropriate and cooperate with an investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Disbarments are rare in Louisiana. According to statistics from the attorney disciplinary board, 70 lawyers have been disbarred in the state over the past decade. Over the same period, 47 lawyers have been reinstated or readmitted to the bar.

Suspensions, probation or admonitions from the court are far more common outcomes for complaints sustained by the board.

.

___

Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, https://www.neworleansadvocate.com


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide