NEW ORLEANS -- Only months before voters take to the polls to decide whether to re-elect New Orleans City Councilman James Gray, the Louisiana Supreme Court has handed Gray another suspension from practicing law.
The new allegations against Gray, a councilman represents District E in eastern New Orleans, allege he neglected a client in 2006. Gray is already serving a two-year suspension for a 2015 Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that found he failed to do legal work for four clients.
Gray received harsh criticism in the sanctions recommended by a hearing committee of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board saying he neglected to respond to the disciplinary board or participate in the disciplinary proceedings.
“The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board and Louisiana Supreme Court typically hold lawyers who serve in public office to a higher standard than other lawyers. Dane Ciolino, a legal ethics expert and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, told the Louisiana Record. “What was particularly egregious about this case, was Mr. Gray's refusal to cooperate with the investigation by the office of disciplinary counsel.”
The Louisiana Supreme Court established the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board to investigate attorney misconduct allegations and recommend disciplinary actions if needed to the high court.
If this newest recommendation for suspension is approved, Gray will face even more hurdles to being reinstated.
“Being reinstated to the practice of law after a suspension of more than one year requires a reinstatement hearing,” Ciolino said. “At that hearing, the lawyer bears the burden of proving his fitness to practice by clear and convincing evidence. It is a high, and often difficult, burden for lawyers to establish.”
In the meantime, Gray will need to focus on his final bid for the city council seat he holds. The three-day qualifying period for candidates for the November election closed July 14, and, officially, five contenders will run against Gray. Gray began serving as a city councilman in 2012 and won re-election in 2014.
“This disciplinary matter will have no effect whatsoever on his ability to serve on the New Orleans City Council,” Ciolino said.
Voters will determine Gray's political future come November.