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Lawyers ordered to anger management

Two Virginia lawyers have been told to take anger management classes, one for a courthouse outburst and the other for taunting a litigation opponent.

Herman C. Smith III of Norfolk was ordered by a circuit judge to anger management and 75 hours of community service for a tirade at Norfolk General District Court last July, reports The Virginian-Pilot.

Smith was representing one of four co-defendants in an armed robbery case when he learned that another of the co-defendants was going to testify against his client. He shouted in the hallway that the other defendant was a “snitch.”

“Let everybody in Youngs Park know he’s a snitch,” Smith said, according to the paper’s report.

Smith was charged with felony obstruction of justice. He entered an Alford plea to misdemeanor contempt of court, the paper said. Besides anger management and community service, he was sentenced Tuesday to a 90-day suspended jail sentence and fined $500.

Another Virginia lawyer, now living outside the state, was ordered to anger management for sending an email purporting to congratulate an adversary on his indictment for fraud the day before.

Jason Roper, formerly of Virginia Beach, had sued lawyer Brian Ray Dinning on behalf of a couple who claimed Dinning had swindled them out of investment money. Roper’s conduct during a 2009 deposition in that case helped earn him a three-year suspension from the Virginia State Bar.

Roper won a $722,000 judgment for his clients, but he evidently had not lost any of his animosity towards Dinning when Dinning was indicted last year on 25 counts of fraud.

Roper sent an email to Dinning saying he hoped Dinning would enjoy 20 to 30 years in a federal penitentiary. The email suggested Roper would comfort Dinning’s wife during his absence and alluded to the prospects for Dinning’s sexual victimization in prison, according to the VSB’s account.

Roper closed the message saying “Laughing still, Jason C. Roper.”

Members of a VSB disciplinary panel found the letter to be a violation of the ethics rule barring a “criminal or deliberately wrong act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law.”

The disciplinary board imposed a public reprimand with a requirement for Roper to complete an anger management class – a “non-Internet classroom-type class acceptable to the bar.”

If Roper fails to complete such a class by the end of the year, the punishment becomes an additional six-month suspension.

Roper has addresses in both Pennsylvania and Kentucky, according to the order from the VSB disciplinary board.

Dinning pleaded guilty last month to two counts of fraud and faces up to 50 years in prison.

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