Nanine McCool, who clashed with 22nd Judicial District Judge Dawn Amacker on the campaign trail and in court, broke rules of professional conduct when she took her differences with the judge to social media, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has concluded.
The board is recommending that the state Supreme Court suspend McCool from practicing law for a year and a day and be required to attend ethics training.
McCool’s attorney, Richard Ducote, said last fall that a suspension of more than a year will make it more difficult for his client to apply for reinstatement.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel brought charges against McCool because of her actions in a custody dispute between a client and her ex-husband, who lives in Mississippi. The woman accused her ex of sexually abusing their two young daughters and sought to have his parental rights curtailed. The woman’s new husband was seeking to adopt the girls.
Amacker delayed a decision on the adoption until the Mississippi matter could be resolved and denied a motion for emergency custody.
The girl’s mother and McCool put up a website that linked to online petitions and urged people to contact the two judges and the Louisiana Supreme Court. It also linked to audio recordings of the mother interviewing her children about the alleged abuse.
McCool also chided the judges on Twitter. An Aug. 16, 2011, tweet, for example said, “GIMME GIMME GIMME Evidence! Want some? I got it. Think u can convince a judge to look at it? Sign this petition.’’ It then gave a link to an online petition in the case.
Another tweet said, in part, “I am SO going 2 have 2 change jobs after this...I’m risking sanctions by the LA supreme court.’’
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board found that McCool sought to influence a judge by prohibited means; violated or attempted to violate rules of professional conduct; and engaged in conduct involving deceit, fraud or misrepresentation as well as conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The board declined to find McCool guilty of engaging in ex parte communications with a judge, saying she did not have direct communication with either judge, although she encouraged members of the public to contact them.
McCool said that her license is not her main concern and that she has never made very much money as a lawyer because she has been more focused on trying to help people. “I don’t see the point in taking people’s money when I can’t give them justice or access to justice,’’ she said.
The board’s ruling “sets a frightening parameter for lawyers, (who) can’t call out judges who won’t abide by the law,’’ she said.
She complained that the board ignored the facts in her case. “We no longer have a justice system,’’ she said.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter at @spagonesadvocat.