Reprimand Recommended for Lawyer Who Threated to “Punch the Sh*t” Out of Opposing Counsel

On November 6, 2019, a Hearing Committee of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommended the public reprimand of New Orleans lawyer Ike Spears for threatening to “punch the shit” out of another lawyer for calling him a “liar.” See In re Spears, No. 19-DB-035 (filed Nov. 6, 2019).

The conduct in question ocurred in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court during an August 2018 bail hearing before Judge Robin Pittman. During the hearing, the assistant district attorney called Mr. Spears “a liar” for allegedly making false statements about the victim. The transcript reads as follows:

Excuse me, sir. You’re a liar.
Mr. Spears responded:
And I will punch the shit out of you if you call me a liar, again.
Mr. Dover doubled down, after being challenged by Respondent to call me a liar again, stating:
At this point in the transcript of the August 20, 2018 hearing, the court reporter wrote:
Mr. Spears:
(Raises fist up to Mr. Dover)
Mr. Dover:
(Raises arm up in a blocking motion)
Finally, Respondent stated:
…but perhaps we can settle this outside the courtroom.

Id. at 3

The ODC contended that Mr. Spears violated Louisiana Rule of Professional Conduct 3.5(d) by engaging in conduct “intended to disrupt a tribunal.” Mr. Spears, however, argued that “his conduct was a spur of the moment reaction to being called a liar” and that he did not act with “intent to disrupt.”

The committee rejected Mr. Spears’s argument, finding that a person acts with “intent” when he “knows that the consequences are certain, or substantially certain, to result from his act, and he still goes ahead, he is treated as if he intended the consequences of his action.” Id. at 5 (citing Bazley v. Tortorich, 397 So. 2d 475, 482 (La. 1981)). Said the committee, “[c]ommon sense dictates that an attorney must know that his actions will disrupt the court if he, during the course of a hearing or trial, threatens to ‘punch the shit’ out of opposing counsel . . . .”

In recommending the imposition of a public reprimand rather than a suspension (as ODC requested), the committee found that no actual physical contact occurred. It also found that Mr. Spears was provoked “not just once, but twice” by the assistant district attorney.

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