Former Baton Rouge personal-injury lawyer E. Eric Guirard’s seven-year hiatus from practicing law in Louisiana came to an end Friday.
A sharply-divided state Supreme Court gave the disbarred Guirard the go-ahead to resume the practice of law in the state. His readmission comes with a two-year period of supervised probation.
Guirard’s name became a fixture in Baton Rouge because he touted his law practice with billboards and frequent advertisements on radio and television. His clients were promised that their cases would be handled promptly — the “E Guarantee.”
Guirard and his then-partner, Thomas R. Pittenger, were disbarred by the high court in May 2009. The justices gave Pittenger the green light to practice law again in March 2015. His readmission also came with two years of supervised probation.
“Today I’m just incredibly appreciative that the Supreme Court gave me a second chance,” Guirard said Friday, adding that he’s eager to begin practicing law again and serving the public.
Asked if he will continue to use his once-popular “E Guarantee” slogan, the personal-branding pioneer said, “Everything is being studied. I intend to get back into the practice of law ... and start as soon as practical.”
Chief Justice Bernette Johnson and Associate Justices Greg Guidry, Jeff Hughes and John Weimer voted to grant Guirard’s application for readmission. Associate Justices Scott Crichton, Jeannette Theriot Knoll and Marcus Clark dissented.
In his written reasons, Crichton said Guirard “even at this late date” fails to recognize the seriousness and wrongfulness of the misconduct that led to his disbarment.
“After his disbarment, Mr. Guirard complained that his punishment was ‘draconian,’ dismissed his transgressions as ‘technical violations,’ and claimed the mantle of ‘poster boy’ for ‘(victims) of government injustice,’ ” Crichton wrote. “Even at his readmission hearing, he characterized the harm to his clients as merely ‘theoretical.’
“He fails to recognize that the actual victims of injustice were his clients,” the justice added.
Asked if he cared to respond to Crichton’s remarks, Guirard declined, saying instead that a majority of the high court voted in his favor.
The four-justice majority’s ruling stated that Guirard “has satisfied the necessary requirements” to be readmitted.
The ruling noted that a hearing committee recommended Guirard’s readmission. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, however, objected to that recommendation, and a disciplinary board recommended the denial of his application.
Guirard and Pittenger were disbarred because of their “business first” model, which included rewarding the firm’s nonlawyers for settling cases as fast as possible, the Supreme Court’s 2009 disbarment order stated.
“Having the case managers negotiate and settle the cases was a misrepresentation by omission to the clients, particularly considering that clients were given the ‘E Guarantee,’ which implied that a lawyer, not a case manager, would handle the case,” the high court wrote in its 2009 opinion.
One case manager received $81,000-plus in commissions for settling 261 cases, the court said.
Guirard and Pittenger eventually sold E. Eric Guirard and Associates to the law firm of Dudley, DeBosier and Peltier.
During his absence from the legal scene, Guirard, a tea party activist, made an American conservative rap album — the “Tea Party Anthem” — touting the party’s politics.
While a senior at LSU in 1981, he wrote the theme song — “Tigers to the Top” — for the men’s basketball team that made it to the Final Four in Philadelphia.