Excerpt from the Wall Street Journal
By Ashby Jones
In our next life, we’re going to be from southern Louisiana. Yes, there’s the food, the drink, the music, the bon temps that roulez — but there’s something else, too: a seeming never-ending flood of news-making personalities. Just this week, for instance, you’ve got a mayor who can’t remember a trip he took in 2005 and a porn star thinking of running for a U.S. Senate seat.
Something tells us that various aspects of legal practice down there might be no less wacky. Take, for instance, the case of lawyers Douglas Greenburg and Anthony Lewis. The Louisiana Supreme Court this week handed down sanctions for both lawyers, who engaged in fisticuffs back in 2006. As described in the court’s opinion:
In 2005, respondents represented opposing parties in a bitterly contested succession matter pending in Terrebonne Parish. Jean Claire Williams v. Debra Williams Jones, No. 121,049 on the docket of the 32nd Judicial District Court for the Parish of Terrebonne. On May 26, 2006, respondents appeared in open court for a motion hearing before Judge Randall L. Bethancourt. During the hearing, Mr. Greenburg suggested that “some hanky-panky” on the part of Mr. Lewis might well justify an award of attorney’s fees to Mr. Greenburg’s client. The following
exchange then occurred:
Mr. Lewis: Here we go again, Your Honor, the former D.A. is always suspect –
Mr. Greenburg: Your Honor, I’m going to object right now–
Mr. Lewis: – or somebody . . . the law –
The Court: Gentlemen, quiet.
Mr. Greenburg: – and ask that this jackass –
The Court: Gentlemen, quiet. Quiet, gentlemen.
Mr. Greenburg: – quit bringing up anything –
Mr. Lewis: Jackass?
Mr. Greenburg: Jackass.
Mr. Lewis: Your mother is a jackass.
The Court: Hey, hey, hey. All right, y’all are both in contempt.
Following the exchange of profanities, Mr. Greenburg grabbed Mr. Lewis’ suit jacket and both men fell to the floor. Judge Bethancourt immediately recessed the proceeding, cleared the courtroom, and restored order. He then informed respondents on the record that he was holding both of them in contempt of court but that sentencing would be delayed until a later date.
It sounds like something from a lousy 1970s era television show. But it really happened. And when things like this happen, lawyers don’t just dust themselves off and go on their merry way, apparently. In 2007, Greenburg was found guilty of battery, though he reportedly spent only one night in jail.
In the ruling issued this week, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued Lewis a public reprimand and suspended Greenburg’s license for six months, though it chose to “defer” all but 30 days of the sentence provided Greenburg get some anger-management help.
“This stunning lack of decorum and civility occurred in open court, in front of lawyers, court personnel, and ordinary citizens of Terrebonne Parish. Such conduct undermines public confidence in and respect for the legal system, and it cannot be condoned by this court.”