The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to review the Attorney Discipline Board’s decision to vacate a hearing panel’s reprimand, with conditions, of Dianne L. Baker, who pleaded guilty to driving while visibly impaired and faced the discipline process as a result.
As reported in our Feb. 22 issue, the Attorney Grievance Commission wanted to put Baker through the wringer. The AGC offered to back off if Baker agreed to contractual probation, which required Baker to swear off alcohol, attend counseling or submit to alcohol monitoring, and to file quarterly progress reports.
The AGC wanted all of this because it perceived that Baker had a drinking problem and was not doing anything about it. Baker declined the offer and told the AGC to prove its case.
A hearing panel agreed with the AGC’s assessment and issued a reprimand that contained substantially the same conditions Baker rejected when she turned down the contractual probation offer.
On review, the Attorney Discipline Board said the evidence just didn’t add up against Baker and vacated the reprimand. The ADB pointed to Baker’s negative alcohol tests, the hearing panel’s adverse determination of Baker’s credibility without citing any supporting evidence and Baker’s voluntary counseling sessions.
What’s more, said the ADB in its opinion:
Even if the record indicates what could be deemed excessive alcohol consumption at certain points in [Baker’s] life, we must also consider the evidence of [her] voluntary cessation or reduction of alcohol use during most periods of her life, which include consistent employment in responsible positions, childbirth and child-rearing years, and graduation cum laude from law school while working.
There’s no justification for Baker to be involved with the discipline process, the ADB said.
[W]e find clear evidence that respondent drove while impaired by alcohol on one occasion. This criminal conduct was appropriately dealt with by the district court.
The other evidence marshaled fails to demonstrate the existence of a problem for the attorney discipline system to address.
Late last month, a four-justice majority denied the AGC’s application for leave to appeal. Justices Maura D. Corrigan and Robert P. Young Jr. would have granted leave.
Justice Elizabeth A. Weaver sat this one out, explaining:
I abstain from voting on any items dealing with the Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) and/or the Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC) to avoid any appearance that I could be trying to affect the outcome of the referrals of me to the JTC and AGC by Justices Corrigan, Young and Markman.
See, The Michigan Lawyer, “Weaver, Corrigan, Young and Markman: Supreme Court potboiler,” for more about this topic.