4th Circuit Ethics News - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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The Eric C. Conn Law Complex is an interesting place. From the photos and videos of the welded-together trailers, to the Lincoln Monument and Statue of Liberty replicas on the lot, the setting is reminiscent of every lawyer stereotype the rest of us laugh about. Uproxx calls him the "Real life Saul Goodman," which isn't too far off, except the whole criminal aspect.

Except, that's exactly what the federal government is calling him.

Earlier this week, a Congressional report implicated Conn and retired Administrative Law Judge David B. Daugherty in a Social Security disability scheme that processed thousands of claims in "assembly-line fashion. The report accuses Conn of using manufactured evidence in claims brought before Judge Daugherty, which were rubber stamped en masse by the now-retired judge, reports The Associated Press.

Gregory Bartko, a lawyer-turned-convict just had his convictions upheld by the Fourth Circuit, and he may be the least interesting thing discussed in his appellate case. Despite Brady and Giglio violations by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the evidence against him was too convincing for even ethics to stand in the way of his 23-year prison sentence.

For the U.S. Attorney's Office, however, their repeated mistakes or misbehavior drew the attention of the Fourth Circuit. Whether the ethics violations draw additional scrutiny, and cost jobs or bar licenses, remains to be seen.

We’ve heard of moral victories, but is there a losing equivalent? Moral losses? Gracious defeat?

Unlike the Ninth Circuit, which is regularly bench-slapped by the Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit may not feel bad about being reversed twice in one morning. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued decisions in Alleyne and Maracich. One was a heavily-fractured opinion about a truly ambiguous statute. In the other, the Fourth Circuit was actually correct under controlling law. The Supreme Court just changed the rules.

Because both cases involved fundamental rules essential to local practitioners of civil and criminal law, here are the updates:

“Woe is the state of justice in the Commonwealth if this behavior is not extremely rare.”

Judge Stephanie Thacker, in dissent.

Justin Michael Wolfe, an alleged drug dealer once referred to as “Little Al Capone” due to the size of his operation, was convicted of hiring Owen Barber to kill Danny Petrole in 2002. Since then, evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and recantations by the triggerman, whose testimony was the only direct link to Wolfe, have led to years of state appeals and habeas petitions.

In the end, the Fourth Circuit’s holding in Wolfe II was clear: release or retry, within 120 days.

SCOTUS Denies Attorney Request for Fourth Circuit 'Exorcism'

It seems that Thomas Liotti was pretty peeved after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals admonished him in December for five different charges of attorney misconduct.

Some attorneys might have picked up a pint of ice cream, curled up in pajamas, and watched some reality TV to cope with appellate admonishment.

Liotti, on the other hand, filed a petition of certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to benchslap the Fourth Circuit for benchslapping him.

New Procedures for Attorney Fees in Capital Punishment Cases

On January 4, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a Notice of Special Procedures for Reviewing Attorney Compensation Requests in Death Penalty Cases.

The Judicial Council of the Fourth Circuit adopted certain amendments to the existing procedures for reviewing attorney compensation requests in federal capital prosecutions. Specifically, they added that requests for compensation in amounts over $100,000 per attorney would be presumed excessive at the district court level, if made in connection with a federal capital prosecution. Similarly, amounts in excess of $50,000 at the appellate level are presumed excessive.

Stellar Record Doesn't Mitigate Attorney Misconduct

If you think that a court will be hesitant to issue sanctions against court-appointed attorneys with stellar records, think again.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals admonished court-appointed attorney Thomas Liotti on Friday for five different charges of attorney misconduct, most relating to factual misrepresentations. Liotti conceded the misrepresentations, but argued that he should not be publicly disciplined because they were unintentional. The court was not persuaded.