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Once you become a lawyer your personal life is never completely separate from your professional life again. Circuit Court Judge Sam Pope is living proof that what you do outside the office can still hurt your career.
On Thursday Pope was suspended by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission as part of an agreement reached over an incident that happened to Pope in April.
Not only was Pope suspended for 30 days, the agreement also required that he attend anger-management class and write an apology letter. Given all that you'd expect that Pope is also dealing with a criminal case -- but he was never charged.
On April 5, police responded to a call about an altercation in a Walmart, according to the Associated Press. The incident ended with Pope and another man in handcuffs.
Pope apparently got in a fight with his wife's boyfriend. It's unclear whether they were still married at this point or whether she was Pope's ex-wife at the time. What is clear is that Pope got into a fistfight with the man in the middle of the retail superstore.
Police arrested both men but ultimately neither was charged with a crime. They agreed not to ask that the other be prosecuted.
That wasn't enough for the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. It appears that Pope's behavior was unacceptable for a judge (or lawyer) and therefore he was sanctioned. It's stories like this that remind us that lawyers and judges are held to a high standard of behavior at all times by bar associations.
Arrests and convictions are public record and that's enough information for sanctions if your behavior is 'conduct unbecoming of an attorney' or otherwise violates the rules in your state.
Pope will be back to work in 30 days, hopefully a little calmer and likely a little embarrassed as well. Turns out 'keep your hands to yourself' isn't just solid preschool advice.