In re Riehlmann
2005 WL 106470 (La. 2005)

  • Riehlmann was a defense attorney who used to be a prosecutor. He met a friend (Deegan) who was still a prosecutor at a bar. Deegan admitted that he had suppressed exculpatory evidence in a criminal case he had prosecuted, although he didn’t specifically say which one (turned out it was a guy named Thompson).
    • Riehlmann urged Deegan to admit what happened, but took no action himself to remedy the act.
    • Deegan died of cancer soon after.
    • Thompson was convicted and sentenced to death.
  • Five years later, Thompson’s attorney found the suppressed lab report that proved Thompson didn’t do it. When Riehlmann found out, he wrote an affidavit stating that Deegan told him he had intentionally suppressed the evidence.
    • Riehlmann later testified that he knew he should have reported Deegan’s misconduct, but didn’t.
  • The Office of Disciplinary Counsel charged Riehlmann with violating Rule 8.3(a) and Rule 8.4(c).
    • Rule 8.3(a) says that you have to report known instances of another attorney’s misconduct.
    • Rule 8.4(c) says that an attorney cannot engage in conduct involving fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
    • Rule 8.4(d) says that an attorney cannot engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
    • Riehlmann argued that Rule 8.3(a) merely requires that an attorney possessing unprivileged knowledge of a Rules violation shall report such knowledge to an authority empowered to investigate the facts, and he did eventually report his information to Thompson’s attorney, who reported it to the Court.
      • Rule 8.3(a) doesn’t give a specific time limit for reporting.
  • The Hearing Committee recommended that Riehlmann be found guilty of violating Rule 8.4(d), but not Rule 8.3(a).
    • The Hearing Committee found that since Deegan never told Riehlmann the name of the defendant, Riehlmann never had “knowledge” of the violation and therefore didn’t violate Rule 8.3(a).
    • However, the Hearing Committee found that Riehlmann had a broader obligation to ensure that justice is fairly administered, and by his complete inaction Riehlmann violated Rule 8.4(d).
  • The Disciplinary Board recommended Riehlmann be found guilty of violating both Rule 8.3(a) and Rule 8.4(d).
    • While the Hearing Board found that you need clear and convincing evidence of knowledge to have a Rule 8.3(a) violation, the Disciplinary Board thought that the standard should be when a reasonable lawyer would have “a firm opinion that the conduct in question more likely than not occurred.”
      • Basically, you don’t need all the details before you are required to report, you just need to have a sufficient knowledge that something happened.
      • The Disciplinary Board found that while there is no specific time limit, reporting must occur within a reasonable time under the circumstances.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed the Disciplinary Board’s recommendations.
    • The Appellate Court found that, Rule 8.3(a) has three requirements:
      • The attorney must possess unprivileged knowledge of a Rules violation.
        • Since the investigating will be done by a tribunal later, the reporting attorney doesn’t need “proof” just a reasonable amount of evidence.
      • The attorney must report that knowledge.
        • The report must be timely.
      • The report must be made to a tribunal or an authority empowered to investigate the violation.
        • In Louisiana, that’s the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, not, the opposing side’s attorney.
    • Riehlmann was disciplined with a Public Reprimand.