Wednesday, December 01, 2004
State bar reprimands Roanoke lawyer
The case involved a legal malpractice lawsuit filed years ago against a Roanoke law firm.
The Virginia State Bar issued a public reprimand Tuesday to a Roanoke lawyer who filed court papers alleging a conspiracy between a prominent local law firm and the state's highest court.
Joseph Anthony received the reprimand for violating a rule of professional conduct that bars lawyers from making false or reckless statements that question the integrity of a judicial official.
Anthony could have received a more serious sanction - such as suspension or revocation of his licence - from a three-judge panel that heard a day of testimony and arguments Tuesday in Roanoke Circuit Court.
The case involved a legal malpractice lawsuit that Anthony and a Tennessee lawyer filed years ago against Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore on behalf of a Blacksburg developer. The lawsuit claimed that members of the law firm colluded with the Virginia Supreme Court, which declined to hear an appeal of an earlier, related lawsuit.
A federal judge called the allegations the legal equivalent of a drive-by shooting, and Anthony was ordered in 2002 to pay $14,000 in sanctions.
After learning of the case through media accounts, the state bar initiated its own proceedings against Anthony, assistant bar counsel Kathryn Ramey said.
Although Anthony has said previously that he had evidence to back his allegations - in the form of an anonymous letter supposedly written by a "grateful wife" of a Gentry Locke lawyer thanking the Supreme Court justices for protecting the firm - he testified Tuesday that he could have handled the matter better.
"This was an aberrational case, it resulted in aberrational conduct on the part of Mr. Anthony, and it should be considered in that light," Anthony's attorney, William Poff, told the three judges.
Ramey asked the panel to suspend Anthony's license for attempting to undermine public confidence in the judiciary. She disputed Poff's characterization that Anthony's actions caused no more harm than tossing a pebble into the Mississippi River.
If everyone did that, she said, it would dam the river.