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In the Matter of Megan Leigh Harrington

January 11, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF MEGAN LEIGH HARRINGTON, RESPONDENT.


Per curiam.

ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE

Original proceeding in discipline.

Two-year suspension.

This is a contested original proceeding in discipline filed against the respondent Megan Leigh Harrington, an attorney admitted to the practice of law in Kansas in 2004.

The office of the Disciplinary Administrator filed a formal complaint against respondent on January 6, 2012, alleging violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct (KRPC), and respondent answered the complaint on January 30, 2012. On February 9, 2012, the respondent filed a proposed plan of probation. The Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys conducted a hearing on February 22, 2012, at which the respondent was present and represented by counsel. The hearing panel determined respondent violated KRPC 8.4(b) (2011 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 618) (commission of a "criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's . . . fitness as a lawyer"). As set out in the final hearing report, the panel made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law, together with its recommendation to this court:

"FINDINGS OF FACT

"6. On April 18, 2009, the Respondent ingested cocaine and alcohol. At approximately 4:00 a.m., the Respondent drove her father's vehicle the wrong way on highway K10 and struck another vehicle. Both cars sustained disabling damage. The driver of the other car suffered minor injuries.

"7. Law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant to obtain a sample of the Respondent's blood and urine. The laboratory test results from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) established that the Respondent had cocaine in her system. Additionally, the laboratory test results from the KBI also established that the Respondent's blood alcohol concentration was .16 per 100 milliliters of blood, twice the legal limit.

"8. On May 6, 2009, the Johnson County District Attorney charged the Respondent in a two count complaint, alleging reckless aggravated battery (felony) and driving under the influence of alcohol (misdemeanor).

"9. On October 29, 2010, pursuant to a plea agreement, the Johnson County District Attorney amended the complaint to include battery (misdemeanor), driving under the influence of alcohol (misdemeanor), and obstruction of official duty (misdemeanor). The Respondent entered a plea of guilty to battery, driving under the influence of alcohol, and obstruction of official duty.

"10. For the conviction of obstruction of official duty, the Johnson County District Court sentenced the Respondent to serve 360 days in jail.

"11. Regarding the conviction of battery, the Court sentenced the Respondent to serve 180 days in jail, consecutive to the sentences for the other convictions.

"12. Finally, the Court sentenced the Respondent to serve 180 days in jail for the conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol. Again, the jail sentence for the conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol was ordered to be consecutive to the sentences for the other two convictions. The Court ordered the Respondent to pay a fine of $500.00. Finally, the Court ordered that an ignition interlock device be installed on all vehicles operated by the Respondent for a period of two years.

"13. The Court ordered the Respondent to serve 45 days in jail for 'shock time.' Additionally, following the completion of the jail time, the Court ordered that the Respondent be placed on house arrest for 60 days. The Court granted the Respondent's request for probation. The Court ordered the Respondent's supervised probation to last three years. The Respondent completed the jail time and the house arrest time between November, 2010, and February, 2011. The Respondent remains on probation.

"14. On April 29, 2009, the Respondent entered into a one-year monitoring agreement with the Kansas Lawyers' Assistance Program. The Respondent completed the monitoring agreement in April, 2010. During the one-year monitoring period, the Respondent completed alcohol and drug treatment and attended AA meetings. Following the one-year monitoring period, the Respondent has not participated in any alcohol or drug treatment, she has not participated in any relapse prevention program or counseling, nor has she attended any AA meetings.

"15. During the hearing on the Formal Complaint, the Respondent testified that her previous use of cocaine was a social activity. She acknowledged drinking alcohol to excess and ingesting two lines of cocaine on the night of April 18, 2009.

"16. The Respondent also testified that every random drug test that she has submitted to since her arrest has been negative for illegal drugs and alcohol.

"CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

"17. Based upon the findings of fact, the Hearing Panel concludes as a matter of law that the Respondent violated KRPC 8.4, as detailed below.

"18. 'It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to . . . commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.' KRPC 8.4(b). The Respondent entered a plea of guilty to battery, driving under the influence of alcohol, and obstruction of official duty. Thus, the Hearing Panel concludes that the Respondent committed criminal acts that reflect adversely on her fitness as a lawyer in other respects, in violation of KRPC 8.4(b). The Respondent has admitted to this violation.

"AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION "STANDARDS FOR IMPOSING LAWYER SANCTIONS

"19. In making this recommendation for discipline, the Hearing Panel considered the factors outlined by the American Bar Association in its Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions (hereinafter 'Standards'). Pursuant to Standard 3, the factors to be considered are the duty violated, the lawyer's mental state, the potential or actual injury caused by the lawyer's misconduct, and the existence of aggravating or mitigating factors.

"20. Duty Violated. The Respondent violated her duty to the public to maintain her personal integrity.

"21. Mental State. The Respondent knowingly violated her duty.

"22. Injury. As a result of the Respondent's misconduct, the Respondent caused actual injury to a member of the public and to the legal profession.

"23. Aggravating or Mitigating Factors. Aggravating circumstances are any considerations or factors that may justify an increase in the degree of discipline to be imposed. In reaching its recommendation for discipline, the Hearing Panel, in this case, found the following aggravating factors present:

"24. Refusal to Acknowledge Wrongful Nature of Conduct. During the hearing on the Formal Complaint, the Respondent testified that (1) she does not have an alcohol problem, (2) she acknowledged the conclusions of the professionals that she may have an alcohol problem, and (3) she has an alcohol problem. As a result of the Respondent's conflicting testimony, the Hearing Panel is unable to conclude that the Respondent has a full understanding and appreciation of her problem with alcohol. Further, the Respondent's casual testimony regarding the ingestion of cocaine disturbed the Hearing Panel. As an officer of the Court, the Respondent needs to have a full appreciation of her duty to the Court to refrain from engaging in criminal conduct.

"25. Illegal Conduct, Including that Involving the Use of Controlled Substances. The Respondent engaged in illegal conduct. She entered a plea of guilty to battery, driving under the influence of alcohol, and obstruction of official duty. Further, the Respondent testified that she ingested cocaine.

"26. Mitigating circumstances are any considerations or factors that may justify a reduction in the degree of discipline to be imposed. In reaching its recommendation for discipline, the Hearing Panel, in this case, found the following mitigating circumstances present:

"27. Absence of a Prior Disciplinary Record. The Respondent has not previously been disciplined.

"28. Inexperience in the Practice of Law. At the time of the misconduct, the Respondent had been a member of the Kansas bar for less than five years. The Hearing Panel, therefore, concludes that the ...


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