Former Wayne assistant prosecutor Karen Plants disbarred

Former Wayne County assistant prosecutor Karen Plants has been disbarred for her role in a perjury scandal. [Opinion hosted on SBM Blog].

Plants was the prosecutor in the People v. Aceval case which landed former Judge Mary Waterstone in hot, er, water.

She was initially suspended for two years, but the Attorney Discipline Board said that was too light considering her role in allowing knowingly false testimony from police officers and an informant to hide the identity of the informant.

According to the opinion, Plants allowed the following to happen during the course of the trial:

*Respondent’s statements to defense counsel that Povish had no “deals” before his testimony at trial (for which he was given immunity at the insistence of defense counsel);
*False testimony by Povish that he had not met Rechtzigel or McArthur before March 11, 2005, when in fact he had been a confidential informant on this and other cases before then;
*False testimony by Povish about his employment and sources of income (i.e., excluding his income as an informant on Aceval/Pena and other cases);
*False testimony by Povish that he had no “deal” with the police or prosecution before he began to testify;
*False testimony by Povish about why the police did not charge him along with Aceval and Pena for possession of 47 kilos of cocaine, what the police said when they let him go, whether he was worried about being prosecuted, and why he did not hire an attorney.

She was accused of not just keeping information from the court, but keeping it from her supervisors who were advising her on how to proceed.

The Administrator argues that respondent did not suddenly find herself in a jam; nor did the situation unexpectedly “snowball.” We agree. She made a decision to call a confidential informant who participated in the drug transaction as a witness at trial, and then she did what was necessary to keep his relationship to the police from the jury. The lack of reflection about the seriousness of the submission of false testimony that is shown by respondent’s failure to consider readily available and ethically required alternatives is disturbing. …

Therefore, although this lawyer has served the system well in the past, when we consider the mitigation offered against the backdrop of the entirety of the circumstances here, it is our considered view that disbarment is not only appropriate in this case, but that anything less would seriously weaken a lawyer’s cardinal duty to the system of justice.

MSC reduces discipline system dues

State Bar of Michigan members will pay reduced dues to support the attorney discipline system beginning in 2012, according to a Michigan Supreme Court order.

The Court ordered a $10 reduction in the portion of the dues that supports the attorney discipline system.

“The attorney discipline system has become vastly overfunded, with a surplus of about $5 million. In light of this large surplus, the present $120 in discipline dues is not justified,” the Court said in its Oct. 6 order.

The attorney discipline system’s total operating expenses for the fiscal year ending Sept. 10, 2010, were $4,733,442, according to the Attorney Discipline Board’s recently released 2010 Annual Report.

The attorney discipline system includes the Attorney Grievance Commission and the Attorney Discipline Board.

Discipline dues will be $110 beginning next year, down from the current $120. The Court’s order does not affect the amount of general bar dues, currently $180, or the $15 assessment for the State Bar of Michigan’s Client Security Fund.

MSC announces appointments to jury instruction committee, AGC and ADB

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Patricia J. Boyle has been appointed to serve on the Committee on Model Civil Jury Instructions.

Boyle’s appointment, announced yesterday by the Michigan Supreme Court, will end Dec. 31, 2012.

Boyle, who served on the Supreme Court from 1983 through 1998, is of counsel to the law firm of Kienbaum, Opperwall, Hardy & Pelton, PLC, in its Birmingham office.

From 1978 to 1983, she served as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She was a judge of Detroit Recorder?s Court from 1976 to 1978.

The Committee on Model Civil Jury Instructions is comprised of attorneys and judges appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court. The committee is charged with ensuring that the Model Civil Jury Instructions are concise, understandable, conversational, unslanted, and not argumentative.

In other appointments:

  • The MSC appointed Jeffrey T. Neilson and Charles S. Kennedy III as attorney members of the Attorney Grievance Commission for terms ending October 1, 2014. Pastor R.B. Ouelette was appointed as a layperson member of the Attorney Grievance Commission for a term ending October 1, 2014. Martha D. Moore was appointed chairperson of the commission and David L. Porteous was appointed vice-chairperson of the commission for terms ending October 1, 2012.
  • Lawrence G. Campbell was appointed as an attorney member and Dulce M. Fuller was appointed as a layperson member of the Attorney Discipline Board for terms expiring October 1, 2014. Carl E. Ver Beek and Craig H. Lubben were reappointed as attorney members of the Attorney Discipline Board for second full terms expiring October 1, 2014. Thomas G. Kienbaum was appointed chairperson of the board and James M. Cameron was appointed vice-chairperson of the board for terms ending October 1, 2012.

Information from the Michigan Supreme Court.

MSC adopts new trust accounts rule

Banks providing Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) and other trust accounts must notify the Attorney Grievance Commission and the account holder of any overdrafts under a new rule adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Rule 1.15A of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct will require lawyers to keep trust accounts only in financial institutions that have agreed in writing to provide the overdraft notices.

The rule, issued Dec. 15, becomes effective “nine months after entry of this order by the Court.”

The State Bar of Michigan will establish guidelines for financial institutions to obtain “approved status.”

Responding to cost concerns from the banking industry, the rule permits financial institutions to assess attorneys the reasonable costs of providing the notices

but those costs may not be charged against principal, nor against interest or dividends earned on trust accounts, including earnings on IOLTA accounts payable to the Michigan State Bar Foundation under Rule 1.15. Such costs, if charged, shall not be borne by clients.

Rule 1.15A allows the Grievance Administrator to initiate a request for investigation and gives lawyers 21 days to explain the cause of the overdraft and how it was corrected.

Attorney who investigated Judge Steven Servaas will not face Discipline Board, grievance panel rules

From The Grand Rapids Press:

The state Attorney Grievance Commission has ruled that Judicial Tenure Commission Executive Director Paul Fischer does not have to face a disciplinary panel for his investigation of Kent County District Judge Steven Servaas.

In a terse pronouncement Nov. 17, the grievance commission reviewing a complaint against Fischer ruled “no further action is warranted.” As required in such cases, it gave no indication why.

More than a dozen prominent local lawyers, including former presidents of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, filed a grievance seeking sanctions against Fischer in July 2008. The attorneys alleged Fischer tried to extort Servaas’ resignation.

The grievance commission evidently did not agree.