Peter Vieth//March 29, 2018
Peter Vieth//March 29, 2018//
Lawyer Joe Morrissey’s 2014 conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor has led to a finding that he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.
A three-judge Richmond Circuit Court panel concluded March 28 that Morrissey’s 2013 relationship with a 17-year-old employee – now his wife – was a criminal or deliberately wrongful act, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The Virginia State Bar had proved that violation by clear and convincing evidence, said Chief Judge Paul W. Cella for the panel.
The rule in question states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal or deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law.
The judges rejected related charges that Morrissey had lied to a court and engaged in other wrongdoing while defending criminal charges arising from his tryst with the girl.
Other charges remained pending as of March 29. Morrissey was accused by former Gov. Doug Wilder of mishandling a tax levy case for a proposed slavery museum. The bar also charged Morrissey with a rule violation for sending a new lawyer, who had not yet taken the oath of fidelity to the state, to cover a hearing.
The judges said they would decide on a penalty for Morrissey’s rule violation – and any other proved by the bar- after all three matters were heard, the paper said. Options ranged from a private reprimand to disbarment or a suspension of up to five years.
The Morrissey hearing opened March 26 as Assistant Bar Counsel Christine Corey emphasized the bar’s allegation that Morrissey had put forth a fraudulent defense and committed fraud on the court in his resolution of the sex charges.
Morrissey attorney Bill Stanley said his team was prepared to rebut those allegations.
“We will show why he did not lie to the tribunal,” Stanley said as the hearing opened.
On Wednesday, Stanley told the paper the court’s ruling on the professional misconduct charges was a “great victory.”
The other judges on the panel were retired Hampton Judge Louis R. Lerner and retired Fairfax County Judge Jonathan C. Thacher.
The lengthy bar hearing last week was only the latest event in Morrissey’s long history of license troubles. He was suspended for six months in 1993 and for three years in 2000. He was disbarred in 2003 and reinstated in 2011.
Morrissey was sentenced to three months in jail after entering an Alford plea to the delinquency charge in 2014 while he was a state delegate. Work release allowed him to participate in that year’s General Assembly session.