Thursday, June 7, 2007

It takes a lot to get a Bar Association to act against a dishonest lawyer

The D.C. Bar Association is conducting a disciplinary hearing concerning former federal prosecutor G. Paul Howes, but the Bar Association doesn't deserve credit for starting this investigation. The Justice Department investigated four years, then handed the files over to the Bar Association. They could hardly say no, could they?

Lawyers tend to be very tolerant of unethical behavior by other lawyers. As an example, it may be noted that the California Bar Association said Elizabeth Schulman's behavior was acceptable.

On May 7, 2007, Henri E. Cauvin wrote in the Washington Post that Mr. Howes used taxpayer dollars in two drug-and-murder conspiracy cases, "signing off on tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized payments to witnesses and, even more significantly, to their friends and families."

The story continues: "Witnesses routinely are paid stipends when they go to court to testify or when they meet with prosecutors to prepare for the proceedings. But the payments must be disclosed to defense attorneys so informed assessments can be made of the witnesses' credibility... In its charging documents, the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel cites questionable payments totaling more than $75,000 from among the nearly $141,000 in voucher payments issued in the cases.

"In one case, a D.C. police officer [Fonda Moore] was charged with conspiring with a drug gang [specifically, Javier Card] to kill its rivals, and in the other, members of the notorious Newton Street Crew were charged with running a criminal enterprise that was engaged in murder and narcotics distribution.

"In each of the cases, Howes kept the defendants' lawyers in the dark about the unauthorized payments. His motivation remains unclear.

"But the fallout was far-reaching. In the years after the abuses came to light, the U.S. attorney's office had to agree to significant reductions in the sentences of several defendants, including some who had been serving life prison terms. At least three defendants were released within months of the reductions."

Howes once worked as a Washington correspondent for ABC News. Howes is now a partner at Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, LLP in San Diego.

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