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In re Murray

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

February 24, 2015

In the Matter of Steven A. Murray

Decided February 24, 2015.

For Petitioner: David D. Curtin, Esq., Disciplinary Counsel.

For Respondent: Thomas R. DeSimone, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

ORDER

This matter came before the Court at its conference on January 8, 2015, pursuant to a petition for discipline filed by this Court's Disciplinary Counsel. Article III, Rule 24 of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, entitled " Proceedings in cases involving conviction of crime" provides, in pertinent part:

" An attorney admitted to practice in this State who is convicted in a court of record of a crime which is punishable by imprisonment for more than one (1) year in this or any other jurisdiction may * * * be ordered to appear before the court to show cause why his or her admission to the bar should not be revoked or suspended."

The facts giving rise to the petition filed by Disciplinary Counsel are as follows. The respondent, Steven A. Murray, is a member of the Rhode Island Bar. On July 18, 2012, he was arrested by officers of the Coventry Police Department responding to a call placed to the emergency " 911" telephone line. He was subsequently charged in a four-count criminal information filed in the Kent County Superior Court.

On October 15, 2014, he entered a plea of nolo contendere to one felony count of assault, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-2. The remaining counts in the criminal information were dismissed pursuant to Rule 48(a) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. The respondent was sentenced to a three-year term of imprisonment, sentence suspended, and three years of probation. Conditions of his probation include substance-abuse counseling, and he is ordered to have no contact with the victim.

On the same day he entered his plea to the felony assault charge, he also entered a nolo contendere plea to a separate misdemeanor charge of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 31-27-2. He was sentenced to a one-year term of imprisonment, sentence suspended, and one year of probation. The two sentences are being served concurrently.

Disciplinary Counsel has requested that we suspend the respondent's license to practice law based upon these two criminal

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convictions. The respondent appeared before the Court, with counsel, and requested that we impose a less severe sanction. The respondent presented mitigation evidence that his criminal conduct occurred while he was seriously intoxicated, that he has sought and continued treatment for his substance-abuse issues, including in-patient rehabilitative care, and that he has refrained fro consuming alcohol and other intoxicating substances since his arrest on the felony charge. Having heard the representations of Disciplinary Counsel, the respondent, and his counsel, we determine that a suspension of the respondent's ability to practice law in this state is necessary.

There are two purposes of professional discipline: to protect the public and maintain the integrity of the profession. We expect that all members of the bar will comport themselves in accordance with the criminal laws of this state, and we believe that an attorney who fails to do so tarnishes the integrity of the profession. See In re Ciolli, 994 A.2d 81, 82 (R.I. 2010); In re Coia, 762 A.2d 439, 441 (R.I. 2000). By committing a crime of violence the respondent has tarnished the profession, and his conduct warrants a serious sanction.

We have recently addressed several cases where an attorney has been convicted of a crime of violence where there appears to be an underlying substance-abuse problem that contributed to the criminal conduct. In 2011, we imposed a two-year suspension, with conditions of treatment and counseling for reinstatement, upon an attorney convicted of felony assault, willful trespass and disorderly conduct. See In re Mosco,13 A.3d 652 (R.I. 2011). Similarly, we suspended an attorney for one year after his conviction for three misdemeanor counts ...


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