NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended Joseph Mole from practicing law in state courts recently.
This decision comes after Mole was suspended from practicing in U.S. District Court in New Orleans because of his involvement with impeached Judge Thomas Porteous.
In the 1996 case Lifemark Hospitals vs. Liljeberg Enterprises, Lifemark attorney Mole had hired a lawyer, Don Gardner, who was friends with Porteous. Mole hired Gardner "solely because of his friendship with Porteous and with the intent to secure the recusal of Porteous," said the judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Gardner’s compensation was a $100,000 retainer, plus $100,000 severance fee if Porteous backed out of the case and if the case settled before trial.
Gardner’s hiring came after Liljeberg had already enrolled lawyers who knew Porteous.
"For better or for worse, it's not uncommon for lawyers to hire proconsuls who have appeared before a judge before or have some familiarity with a judge,” Dane Ciolino, professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, told the Louisiana Record. “What distinguishes Mole's case is that (Gardner) was hired on to get the judge disqualified. All the courts that have looked at it have found that to be conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice."
Ciolino said that Mole was not the only lawyer to be involved with this case.
"Judge Porteous has dragged down a lot of lawyers with him when he got impeached,” said Ciolino. “Mole is just additional collateral damage from that whole debacle."
However, the Supreme Court's action was necessary and the suspension (one year and six months deferred) was fair and just, Ciolino said.
"You can't have a legal system in which it's OK for lawyers to retain co-counsel simply for purposes of disqualifying a judge,” he said.
Ciolino reiterated that it’s not wrong for a lawyer to know the judge in a given case, but hiring a lawyer onto a case just to get rid of the judge is against the administration of justice.
“It's one thing to hire a lawyer who happens to know the judge,” he continued, “but it's another thing -- and a worse thing -- to hire a (lawyer) solely for purposes of getting a judge involuntarily recused from a case. ... Clearly, the courts have found that one is worse than the other."
Mole and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, part of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, together reached the agreement concerning Mole’s suspension, according to court records.