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In re Riehlmann
Louisiana Supreme Court
891 So. 2d 1239 (2005)
Lawyer Gerry Deegan told his friend and former colleague, lawyer Michael Riehlmann (defendant), that Deegan was dying of colon cancer. Deegan had once been a prosecutor but had transitioned to defense work. Deegan confessed to Riehlmann that Deegan had deliberately failed to disclose blood evidence in a case he had prosecuted many years earlier and that the evidence indicated that the defendant was not guilty. The defendant had ultimately been convicted and sentenced to die by lethal injection. Riehlmann was shocked by the statement and told Deegan to remedy the situation. However, Riehlmann was dealing with extensive personal issues and did not do anything else with the information. Two months later, Deegan died without doing anything about the hidden blood evidence. Five years later, shortly before the convicted defendant was scheduled to die, the defendant’s lawyer discovered the previously undisclosed blood evidence that arguably proved the defendant’s innocence. When Riehlmann heard about this, he contacted the defendant’s lawyer and executed an affidavit repeating what Deegan had told him about deliberately not disclosing the blood evidence. The next month, Riehlmann reported Deegan’s likely ethical violation to the office of disciplinary counsel (plaintiff). The disciplinary counsel charged Riehlmann with failing to report the violation earlier. There was a dispute about whether Riehlmann had known enough to be obligated to report Deegan’s violation and, if so, whether a significantly delayed report satisfied the obligation. The hearing committee ultimately recommended that Riehlmann be publicly reprimanded. However, the disciplinary board found that Riehlmann had clearly failed to meet his reporting obligation and suspended Riehlmann’s law license. Riehlmann appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
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