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California State Bar Recommends District Attorney’s Disbarment
In an April 5, 2013 ruling, State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz held that Alexander had violated three rules of professional conduct – communication with a represented party, moral turpitude and suppression of evidence – and that his “lack of insight into his wrongdoing” and attempts to blame others warranted his disbarment.
“His lack of candor and truthfulness in his dealings with the court and opposing counsel demonstrate that he did not comprehend his special duty as a prosecutor to promote justice and seek the truth, and not merely to convict,” Armendariz stated.
Alexander had previously made three appearances before the State Bar Court. His past transgressions included two convictions for driving without a valid license, prosecutorial misconduct and practicing law without paying Bar dues. Three months after taking office as District Attorney in 2010, Alexander was suspended for 60 days for a variety of past misconduct, including failure to return unearned fees and improper ex parte communications with a judge. He was on probation imposed by the Bar Court at the time of the most recent complaint that led to the disbarment recommendation. [See: PLN, Jan. 2013, p.46].
That recommendation resulted after Alexander, a former methamphetamine addict who was elected on a “Death to Meth” campaign, was found to have violated professional conduct standards in connection with a private meeting in his office in July 2011 with Michelle Taylor, a defendant charged with drug possession and distribution. Taylor told him that drugs found in her possession belonged to her and not to a codefendant who also had been charged.
During the meeting with Taylor, Alexander did not end the meeting when he learned that she was represented by counsel, as required by professional standards and the Sixth Amendment. Instead, he questioned her about who had sold her the drugs. According to Bar Court Judge Armendariz’s report, Alexander then failed to disclose the meeting to Taylor’s public defender or the attorney representing her codefendant; he admitted to having contact with Taylor only after learning that she had secretly tape recorded the encounter, and had given the recording to her codefendant.
During an eight-day Bar hearing in October 2012, Alexander claimed that defense counsel had granted him permission to speak with Taylor. He also said Taylor had “barged into” his office unannounced, and that he had merely tried to talk her into drug treatment. Alexander also asserted that he had immediately informed Taylor’s attorney of the encounter. The Bar Court found those claims to be false.
Alexander faced other misconduct charges in the disbarment proceeding. One charge involved his acceptance of a $6,000 loan from a local defense attorney for hair transplants. He later allegedly aided that attorney by dropping criminal charges against the attorney’s client in a child-stealing case. Alexander also was charged with improperly loaning $14,000 to a probation officer who made sentencing recommendations to judges in cases in which Alexander was involved. While Bar Court Judge Armendariz found those incidents evidenced poor judgment, they were not found to be cause for discipline.
Judge Armendariz held that Alexander’s previous disciplinary sanctions subjected him to Bar Standard 1.7(b), which provides that, if an attorney has two prior records of discipline, the degree of discipline in a subsequent proceeding must be disbarment “unless the most compelling mitigating circumstances clearly predominate.”
She found no such mitigating circumstances. “Respondent’s refusal to recognize his misdeeds and the severity he had harmed the administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession concerns this court,” she wrote. Alexander claimed that he was being “singled out for prosecution” by “outside political forces and the State Bar,” and sued the Bar in October 2012. He faces an unrelated lawsuit himself, filed by former Del Norte DA Michael Riese, who accuses him of malicious prosecution for trying to frame him for DUI and child endangerment charges.
Alexander was suspended without pay on April 5, 2013 and replaced by Katherine Micks as acting DA for Del Norte County. He may appeal the Bar Court’s recommendation to the State Bar Court Review Department. If the recommendation stands and is affirmed by the state Supreme Court, Alexander would be the first California district attorney to be disbarred.
Sources: Associated Press, www.abajournal.com, www.courthousenews.com, www.crescentcitytimes.com, www.latimes.com, www.noethics.net, www.sacbee.com, www.sfgate.com, www.thereporter.com, www.times-standard.com
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