NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An attorney who serves on the New Orleans City Council was suspended from practicing law for two years Tuesday by Louisiana’s Supreme Court.
The decision against James Gray outlined four diverse cases - a medical malpractice claim, a wrongful death claim involving a jail inmate, an inheritance case and a criminal manslaughter charge - in which Gray neglected clients’ legal needs. In the manslaughter case, for instance, Gray neglected to enroll as counsel of record.
The court said Gray failed to respond when complaints were lodged against him and did not cooperate in the investigation. It also said Gray’s testimony about the cases was not credible, and it ordered Gray to refund unearned fees to two of the clients.
“We find that respondent knowingly violated duties owed to his clients and the legal profession,” the court said of Gray.
Gray said he’s disappointed but will live with the court’s decision.
“I want my constituents to know that there were never any allegations regarding my honesty or my abilities, and none of this has anything to do with my work on the New Orleans City Council,” he said in a statement.
Gray is serving his second term on the council. He represents much of eastern New Orleans. His biography on the city’s website touts his work as a practicing attorney with experience in desegregation and civil rights cases.
Also Tuesday, the high court suspended a Shreveport City Court judge for 30 days without pay.
The court’s disciplinary council had found that, in 2012, Judge Sheva M. Sims wrongfully held an assistant city prosecutor in contempt of court and, that same day, illegally dismissed 15 pending criminal cases.
According to the court record, the prosecutor had been an opponent of Sims in court cases prior to Sims being elected to the bench and Sims felt the prosecutor had been disrespectful in court. After the prosecutor refused to meet with Sims in chambers, citing orders from her superior, Sims found her in contempt.
While a disciplinary council had recommended a 90-day suspension, the Supreme Court settled on a 30-day suspension. The ruling noted that the contempt citation against the prosecutor was dismissed and the 15 criminal cases were reinstated. The court also said Sims acknowledged her actions and cooperated in the investigation.
A call to Sims’ office seeking comment was not immediately returned.
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