NEW ORLEANS - Despite requests from his attorney to hold off on the decision, former state prosecutor Walter Reed has been suspended from law practice by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
"The court routinely and automatically suspends lawyers convicted of felonies," Dane Ciolino, a professor of law at Loyola University Law School specializing in legal ethics, told the Louisiana Record. "In so doing, it undertakes no independent evaluation of the evidence of misconduct. The fact of conviction is all that matters. Given this regulatory framework, the suspension was appropriate."
Reed was found guilty in May of spending campaign funds for personal use, not reporting that money as personal income and for giving his son campaign money while disguising it as legitimate campaign expenses, as well as taking payments from St. Tammany Parish Hospital that were supposed to go to the District Attorney's office. He was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and also making false statements on his tax returns. Overall, Reed was found guilty of 18 of the 19 counts he was charged with and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 15.
Reed's attorney, Rick Simmons, had asked the court to not decide on Reed's suspension until his appeals to the federal court in New Orleans for an acquittal or a new trial were heard. While the court declined to put off the suspension, Ciolino says those appeals will likely slow down the overall process.
"There will likely be no hearing on the charges of ethical misconduct until after Mr. Reed exhausts all of his appeals," Ciolino said. "If he prevails on his appeals, he will be reinstated automatically and, more than likely, the formal charges will be dismissed. If he does not, a hearing will be conducted, but he will have an uphill fight."
A hearing on the motions filed by Simmons will be held on July 21, and Reed and Simmons have both said that they are going to appeal the convictions. If those convictions stand, and the hearing doesn't go well for him, Ciolino says that Reed's career could be on the line.
"The real issue at that point would be what the appropriate sanction should be--either suspension or disbarment," Ciolino said.