NorCal Prosecutor Fights to Keep His License
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A Northern California district attorney claims in court that the state Bar and local officials are trying to disbar him because he is a recovered methamphetamine addict.
Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Michael Alexander claims the defendants are pursuing disbarment against him because they discriminate against former drug addicts.
Alexander sued the State Bar of California, its Office of the Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC), OCTC Deputy Trial Counsel Cydney Tabor Batchelor, Del Norte County's former District Attorney Michael Donald Riese, its former assistant district attorney Karen Diane Olson, and its former deputy district attorney Mordechai David Pelta, in San Francisco Superior Court.
Alexander claims he has been clean and sober since kicking methamphetamine 9 years ago.
He was elected district attorney and took office in January 2011. In May this year the California State Bar charged him with four counts of violating Rules of Professional Conduct and three counts of moral turpitude and/or corruption. Alexander says he believes the Bar is trying to have him disbarred.
According to his complaint, "Defendant Batchelor, on behalf of the State Bar and OCTC, stated she did not believe Alexander should be district attorney because she thought his mental abilities continued to be affected by his prior methamphetamine use, and that the attorney general agreed with her."
Alexander claims "that Batchelor's statement was intentionally leaked to the media by the OCTC". But he says, "Contrary to Batchelor's assertion, the attorney general has honored and cited Alexander for his service as district attorney of Del Norte County."
Alexander claims "that the manner and speed at which the notice is being prosecuted by the OCTC, and the State Bar's attitude throughout, indicate a discriminatory motive and intent."
He claims that "the State Bar and OCTC have, for several years, unreasonably subjected plaintiff to a higher level of scrutiny and to prosecution beyond any steps or procedures that apply to all lawyers in general."
According to the 36-page complaint, in 2006, then-District Attorney Michael Riese and Assistant DA Karen Olson falsely alleged that Alexander, then a deputy district attorney, had made an ex parte communication to a judge.
Alexander says he gave a handwritten letter to a Drug Task Force commander to be read in open court at a hearing, but the commander did not read it in court and Olson got her hands on the letter.
"This letter was never intended to be an ex parte communication to the judge," Alexander says in the complaint.
But Olson and Riese brought disciplinary charges against him anyway, Alexander says.
Alexander says he could not afford legal counsel as he was in the early stages of recovery, and based on representations made by Batchelor that he would not receive discipline if he stipulated to the charges, he did so, "even though plaintiff did not commit any violations as charged."
"The OCTC repudiated the stipulation and demanded further disciplines; to wit, one year of actual suspension and three years of probation," Alexander says. "At his hearing, Alexander proclaimed his innocence and presented evidence of the representation by Batchelor that he would receive no discipline in exchange for his stipulation. He was threatened with disbarment if he withdrew his stipulation, and was offered sixty days of actual suspension instead of one year. Even though he wanted to dispute the charges he was not in a financial or psychological position to do so. He had no choice but to accept the discipline," according to the complaint.
Alexander claims the State Bar and OCTC dismissed a similar complaint against former Deputy District Attorney Mordechai David Pelta, who had been fired for sending an anonymous ex parte communication in a homicide case being handled by Alexander. Alexander claims that communication contained untrue allegations that he had received a campaign loan from opposing counsel.
Alexander claims Riese approved of and assisted Pelta in drafting the ex parte communication and that he and Olsen have "committed several violations of their professional responsibilities which had been reported to the state bar by parties other than Alexander, but which the state bar and OCTC have declined to prosecute."
Alexander claims that allegations that a $14,000 loan he provided to a friend who was a deputy probation officer does not constitute professional misconduct because the friend "was not a judge, official or employee of a tribunal at the time of his loan; and his friendship with her was such that gifts, favors and loans were exchanged."
He says the loan was not a secret to anyone, and there is no law requiring him to disclose the loan to courts or opposing counsel, so he cannot be found guilty of "moral turpitude or corruption" for failing to disclose it. And he said the friend made adverse decisions against his client after receiving the loan.
Alexander claims was not obligated to disclose to the court a prior relationship with a lawyer for whom he dismissed a case because he did not have a personal relationship with the lawyer at the time, and even if he did, he would have to disclose it to other lawyers involved, not to the court.
Alexander claims that he presented the State Bar and OCTC with proof that his nondisclosure and nonrecusal did not amount to moral turpitude or corruption, but they did not respond, but "continue to prosecute him on these false charges, supporting the inference that their prosecution is fueled by discriminatory, rather than legitimate motives."
Alexander also denies accusations that he communicated improperly with a pregnant methamphetamine addict, "Ms. Taylor," without her lawyer present, when she barged into his office with a concealed wire and confessed to possession of drugs.
Alexander claims that the addict's lawyer had authorized him to speak to her about entering rehabilitation. "While the scope of Alexander's authorization might not have included discussions of Ms. Taylor's guilt or innocence, it was impossible plaintiff would have known or expected that Ms. Taylor would enter his office and spontaneously provide this information," the complaint states.
Alexander claims that "any momentary deviation from the scope of his authority to speak directly with Ms. Taylor was not unreasonable, immoral, corrupt, incompetent or wrongful in any way" and that Taylor was not hurt by the discussion as her case was disposed of in the same manner as had been proposed to her.
Alexander concedes that "a brief portion" of the communication "might potentially be considered a violation of rule 2-100. Plaintiff contends, however, based on the totality of the circumstances and law, it is not a violation."
The State Bar and OCTC, however, "refused to consider the totality of the law and facts pertaining to their alleged rule 2-100 violation, giving further indication of discriminatory motives for pursuing this charge and plaintiff's disbarment," according to the complaint.
Alexander denies the other counts lodged against him, claiming that the State Bar and OCTC "denied plaintiff an equal application of the rules of conduct and professional standards afforded to other members who are also prosecutors, and has subjected plaintiff to unreasonably higher standards that are not supported by law, in order to create purportedly legitimate reasons to disbar him and revoke his membership, so that they can hide their true motive which is to disbar him on account of his prior history of substance abuse."
The misconduct proceedings are not the only challenges Alexander faces.
Former DA Riese filed a federal lawsuit against Alexander in July, alleging malicious prosecution. Riese claimed Alexander framed him for child endangerment and driving under the influence after Alexander defeated him in the 2011 election.
In the new lawsuit, Alexander accuses the defendants of civil rights violations, intentional and negligent interference with contractual relations and prospective economic advantage, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation, negligence and conspiracy.
He is represented by Rudy Nolen of Sacramento.