NEW ORLEANS – In a June 17 petition to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) requested the “imposition of reciprocal discipline” against attorney Kelly P. Ward, who is licensed to practice law in Louisiana and Illinois, based upon discipline imposed by the Illinois Supreme Court for repeated appearances in court while under the influence of alcohol.
In March 2014, Ward was initially ordered to not consume alcohol, to not enter any establishment whose primary purpose is the sale of alcohol, to submit to weekly random drug and alcohol testing and to complete an alcohol assessment, treatment program, and risk assessment. This order came after Ward was arrested for fleeing the scene of a car accident he caused after failing to yield at a stop sign in March 2012.
Prior to the accident, between May 2010 and October 2011, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) received information from several judges expressing concern that Ward was impaired and smelled of alcohol during court appearances.
“In one particular divorce case, [Ward] appeared in court smelling of alcohol,” the report said. “He was unsteady and had difficulty formulating appropriate questions for the court proceeding, which resulted in the judge continuing the case to a later date.”
The Illinois Supreme Court found Ward in “the commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer” and “engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice” was sentenced to two years' probation with conditions.
“Thereafter, [Ward] violated his probation by failing to abstain from the use of alcohol, failing to submit to random drug tests, and failing to report his lapse in sobriety to the ARDC,” the ODC report said. “On June 16, 2015, the Supreme Court of Illinois revoked the respondent’s probation, vacated the stay of his suspension, and suspended him from the practice of law for two years.”
After receiving notice of the Illinois order of discipline, the ODC filed a motion to initiate reciprocal discipline proceedings in Louisiana, which is when the ODC rendered an order giving Ward 30 days to demonstrate why the imposition of identical discipline in Louisiana would be unwarranted. Ward did not reply to their request.
“The burden is on the party seeking different discipline in this jurisdiction to demonstrate that the imposition of the same discipline is not appropriate,” the report said. “In the instant case, [Ward] has made no showing of infirmities in the Illinois proceeding, nor do we discern any from our review of the record. Furthermore, we find there is no reason to deviate from the sanction imposed in Illinois as only under extraordinary circumstances should there be a significant variance from the sanction imposed by the other jurisdiction.”
Under the circumstances, the ODC recommended that deferment to the Illinois judgment be applied to Ward in Louisiana as well and the Louisiana Supreme Court concurred. Thus, Ward was suspended from practicing law for two years in both states due to a violation of Rules of Professional Conduct.