Attorneys Selling Drugs

/ 14.Jan, 2014

pill bottleThe news yesterday that Malvern attorney Arthur D. Goldman was charged with selling high-end wine without a liquor license is somewhat unusual in that it involved 2,426 bottles of wine valued between $150,000 and $200,000.  What is not terribly unusual is an attorney’s alleged involvement in the illegal sale of a narcotic.  In December of last year, Norristown attorney Gregory Noonan was arrested for selling Oxycodone to an undercover officer.  Ironically, Noonan was arrested a month after representing Dr. Richard Ruth at his trial for unlawful prescription of Oxycodone.  In October 2013, a Towson, MD attorney, Jill Swerdlin, was charged with sneaking drugs to clients in jail.  In September 2013, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission recommended a four-year suspension for attorney Robert Huff (one of the three member panel recommended disbarment), convicted of conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana.

As has repeatedly been noted on this blog, it is a violation of Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) to “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”  Drug and alcohol offenses are generally deemed to fall within Rule 8.4(b).  See, Pennsylvania Disciplinary Counsel vs. Yanoff, No. 71 DB 2012 (October 4, 2012).  Because Rule 8.4 deals with the attorneys conduct, rather than the conviction, an attorney can face discipline even if acquitted of charges.

Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire