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 of 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 of 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, and was sentenced to two years of probation with
“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 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 thirty 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."
The ODC also found Illinois' decision acceptable based on the evidence against Ward.
"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,” the report said.
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.