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VSB seeks comment on Morrissey reinstatement

The Virginia State Bar wants to know what you think about the fitness of Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Henrico, to practice law.

Morrissey has petitioned the VSB to restore his license, which was revoked in April 2003, and a hearing on the request is set for April 22. The state bar is asking for written comments or requests to testify at the hearing by April 13. They should go to Barbara S. Lanier, Clerk of the Disciplinary System, 707 E. Main St., Suite 1500, Richmond, VA 23219.

The revocation occurred three years after a three-judge panel suspended his license in February 2000. The VSB Disciplinary Board found that Morrissey had failed to notify all his clients of the suspension and cited one client who was not advised that he would be represented before the Virginia Court of Appeals by a lawyer in Morrissey’s office rather than by Morrissey because of the suspension.

The May 2003 proceeding followed Morrissey’s disbarment from federal court in December 2001. The specific incident that led to Morrissey’s federal disbarment was a violation of Local Rule 57 for the Eastern District of Virginia. Morrissey held a press conference at which he played the recantation of a witness who had appeared before a federal grand jury.

The rule prohibits an attorney from making an out-of-court comment on the credibility of witnesses.

Matters got much worse for Morrissey, however, because U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne found that Morrissey had offered to provide free legal services for Habitat for Humanity in order to get the employee who was supervising his community service obligation to give Morrissey credit for work he had done for an elderly neighbor.

Federal authorities then sought to bar him from federal courts, and the three-judge panel that did so cited “Morrissey’s 15-year history of contempt citations, reprimands, fines, suspensions, and even incarcerations arising from unprofessional conduct mostly involving an uncontrollable temper, inappropriate responses to stress and dishonesty.”

After his license was suspended, Morrissey moved to Ireland and earned a master of laws degree from Trinity University in Dublin. While in Ireland, Morrissey also taught law at the Dublin Institute of Technology and Portobello College Dublin.

His petition for reinstatement contains laudatory letters from officials at those schools.
Morrissey moved to Australia in 2005 and he was offered a job as a mentor on trial advocacy for the 100 crown prosecutors in New South Wales, the state that includes Sydney. He also applied to become a member of the Australian bar.

However, the teaching offer was withdrawn and his application to become a lawyer in Australia was rejected following disclosure there of his disciplinary record in Virginia.

Morrissey returned to Virginia and ran successfully as a Democrat in 2007 for the 74th District seat that includes Charles City County and parts of Henrico County, Prince George County and the cities of Richmond and Hopewell.

He said he now runs a business that provides day care and residential settings for intellectually challenged adults.

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