Eric Gaynor’s involvement in child pornography creates a significant challenge to Connecticut’s Rules of Professional Responsibility.
The commentary to Rule 8.4 states:
“Many kinds of illegal conduct reflect adversely on fitness to practice law, such as offenses involving fraud and the offense of willful failure to file an income tax return. However, some kinds of offenses carry no such implication. Traditionally, the distinction was drawn in terms of offenses involving ‘‘moral turpitude.’’ …. Offenses involving violence, dishonesty, breach of trust, or serious interference with the administration of justice are in that category. A pattern of repeated offenses, even ones of minor significance when considered separately, can indicate indifference to legal obligation.”
How will the state disciplinary board interpret this rule in this case? To the child advocate, it is clear that the circulation of child pornography is more than moral turpitude. It may be that the board relies on the “repeated offenses” clause because of the number of young boys involved in Gaynor’s illegal conduct.
A solution to this intricate dance for Connecticut and other states is providing a clear clause in their professional ethics legislation that sex offenders cannot retain a license to practice law. It is a dark stain on an honorable profession that there might ever be a question of sex offenders practicing law, particularly sex offenders that have preyed on children.
A nation so allegedly outraged by sex offenses against children still seems to provide fairly light consequences to sexual predators. The legal profession should be a leader in changing that trend.
James R. Marsh
April 21, 2009 (2:54 pm)
Thanks for your thoughtful comment Linda!
For more on this issue consider the case of KS prosecutor Frederick Campbell:
A prosecutor in Kansas has failed to block the suspension of his law license by arguing that his alleged Asperger Syndrome played a part in his decision to show sexually explicit photos of drunken teens at a party to their parents.
The Supreme Court of Kansas on Jan. 16 suspended Anderson County Attorney Frederick Campbell, 49, from practice for six months. The court concluded that he violated attorney ethics rules when he attempted to demonstrate to a group of parents the dangers of teenage drinking by presenting them with photos of teens drinking and engaging in sexual intercourse.
The court in In the Matter of Campbell, No. 101,116, found that despite Campbell’s argument that he had released the photos for the “right reason,” an initial ethics panel recommendation calling for a 90-day suspension was not severe enough.
And what about NY registered-sex-offender-and-member-of-the-bar-in-good-standing Attorney Steven J. Lever:
An associate who was fired from Kirkland & Ellis in 2004 after admitting he attempted to arrange a meeting “to engage in an oral sexual act” with someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl has been suspended from practicing law in New York for three years.
In a rare 3-2 decision in a disciplinary matter, a five-judge panel of the New York Appellate Division, 1st Department, agreed that Steven J. Lever “brought shame to himself and to this State’s Bar” by using the Internet “to prey on minors for purposes of sexual gratification.” They also agreed his conduct required “a significant sanction.”
However, finding a dearth of New York precedent on point, the judges could not agree on the appropriate punishment.
The three-judge majority, looking at similar cases from other states, cited the “substantial and credible mitigation evidence” in confirming a hearing panel’s recommended three-year suspension.
“From the beginning, respondent has admitted responsibility for his actions and has taken ‘uncommon’ efforts to rehabilitate himself,” the majority wrote in its per curiam opinion, Matter of Lever, M-1412. “After his arrest, he voluntarily entered sex offender treatment and all evidence in the record supports the therapist’s opinions that such therapy appears to be working and that the likelihood of respondent repeating the misconduct was ‘low.'”
Justices Luis A. Gonzalez, Eugene Nardelli and James M. McGuire joined the majority.
In a vehement dissent, Justices David B. Saxe and James M. Catterson argued for disbarment. Catterson wrote for the two.
“Because I believe that a convicted and registered sex offender has forfeited the privilege of admission to the bar and the elevated status of the officer of the court, I must respectfully take the unusual step in a disciplinary proceeding and dissent,” Catterson wrote. “I believe that any penalty short of disbarment would not comport with the standards to which a member of the bar should adhere. I do not believe that we can reconcile the status of registered sex offender with that of a member of the bar in good standing.”
This attorney served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA):
Billy Dan Carroll, 53, was arrested for sexual assault Sunday after an 8-year-old girl said she had been victimized.
Carroll has been a Travis County court-appointed children’s advocate for four years.
“This individual has been through an FBI fingerprint check, national criminal databases, state of Texas criminal databases, the CPS central registry, those are all of the sources that we can check on every potential volunteer,” said Laura Wolf, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Travis County. “This particular criminal background check came back clean with nothing to give us any cause for concern. We also talk to personal references. This individual had glowing references.”
Police said they believe the girl is not Carroll’s only victim, and he may have assaulted more children and even some adults.
They said they believe he worked to put himself in positions of trust, serving in his church’s youth group and as a worker for CASA.
“Mr. Carroll has no record of anything — if you would have checked into him, you would have found him to be the neighbor next door,” said Sgt. Brian Loyd. “He would be somebody that you would never, ever in your entire life would suspect of doing anything like this.”
Police said Carroll assaulted the girl in his home on McLoughlin Point.
Court papers showed the girl was brave enough to speak up. She was once a court-appointed client, along with her two sisters and brother. They had been visiting Carroll the day of the sexual assault.
Perhaps Judge Tills can serve as a beacon of guidance for what should happen here:
Ronald H. Tills, a retired acting New York Supreme Court justice and Court of Claims judge, pleaded guilty in September 2008 in federal court in Buffalo, N.Y., to violating the federal Mann Act by transporting a prostitute across state lines.
Tills, 73, admitted before Judge William Skretny of the Western District of New York that he recruited prostitutes to service members of a fraternal club, the Royal Order of Jesters, at gatherings in Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky and Ontario, N.Y., in 2005, 2006 and
In his plea agreement with Western District U.S. Attorney Terrance P. Flynn, Tills also acknowledged arranging for women to attend a meeting of the Buffalo chapter of the Jesters in 2001 in Dunkirk, N.Y., to have sex with members of the club. He faces from 27 months to 33 months in prison during sentencing.
Tills’ was suspended from the practice of law in September 2008.
Tills, of Hamburg, Erie County, was a judge from 1995 until his retirement in 2005. He resigned in March as part-time judicial hearing officer for the state as the FBI and U.S. Border Patrol agents investigated allegations of his involvement with prostitutes and the Jesters’ organization, Connors said. Tills was also a Republican state assemblyman from 1969-77.
Sadly, the bench and bar (those not involved in human trafficking and child sex offenses) have a lot of work in this area now and in the future.
April 22, 2009 (12:25 pm)
The problem of what to do with sex offenders if complicated. You may or may not remember that a Nobel prize winner, recently deceased, was an admitted pedophile and spent time in prison for his actions. He also discovered the causative agent in Mad Cow Disease, Jakob Kreutzfelt disease and scrapie. Should he have been banned from his medical practice?