The question here involves what disciplinary action is appropriate upon our de novo review of the report of our grievance commission in this attorney disciplinary proceeding. Respondent appealed from that report. We find the license to practice law of respondent N. B. (Mike) Wilson should be suspended for six months.
The complaint, as amended, by the Committee on Professional Ethics and Conduct
After hearing, the Commission found the record sustained Counts I and II. The Commission was unable to determine as a fact from the evidence that Counts III and IV had been sustained but, nevertheless, concluded that respondent's conduct toward his clients, Perry and Huffman, was negligent and unprofessional and should be the subject of reprimand. The Commission recommended that the license of respondent to practice law in Iowa be suspended for a period of six months. Respondent took exception to the Commission's report and appealed its findings, conclusions and recommendation. The report stands now for final disposition here. Court Rules 118.9-118.11.
I. We find the record establishes the following facts.
For approximately one year attorney Robert Laden was employed in respondent's law office in Des Moines. The employment terminated in November 1972 and respondent bore considerable animosity toward Laden thereafter. Laden took 52 of respondent's office files with him upon leaving. Arbitration of respondent's claim for compensation for the files was attempted by the State Bar Association, after complaint was filed by respondent. However, respondent and Laden never settled the account although a tentative figure had been discussed. Laden never paid any settlement amount to respondent.
On January 5, 1977, respondent encountered Laden on the third floor of the Polk County Courthouse outside several courtrooms. Many persons, including jurors, were in the area. Respondent again asked Laden for the settlement money. After Laden rebuffed him, respondent became enraged, loudly cursed Laden and followed him closely down the hall as Laden walked away. After Laden spoke an obscenity, respondent shoved Laden into a vestibule where respondent struck Laken in the head with his fist two times and grabbed for Laden's necktie. Laden then hit respondent before a court bailiff interceded and separated the antagonists. No other persons saw the blows being struck, but at least two persons, an attorney and a court reporter, heard the obscenities and loud language used by respondent. Laden weighed about 140 pounds and respondent 230.
The altercation was reported to the Honorable Gibson C. Holliday, Chief Judge of the Fifth Judicial District. By letter dated January 6, respondent and Laden were requested to meet on January 14 before Chief Judge Holliday and District Judges A. B. Crouch and Ray Hanrahan in regard to the incident of January 5. Laden and respondent both appeared before the panel of judges and upon request related their version of the January 5 incident. Respondent told the court relative to the altercation with Laden:
The Commission in substance found the evidence insufficient to sustain the allegations of Counts III and IV. The record suggests respondent accepted representation for a larger volume of clients than he was capable of handling. He did not terminate his employment by the two clients, Perry and Huffman, in a mutually satisfactory manner. However, we agree with the Commission that the evidence does not substantiate Counts III and IV of the complaint. Therefore, a further recitation of the record as to these counts would serve no useful purpose.
II. The charges against respondent must be proved by a convincing preponderance of the evidence. Committee on Professional Ethics, Etc. v. Crary, 245 N.W.2d 298, 299 (Iowa 1976). This requirement is something less than required in a criminal prosecution, and is something more than is required in a civil proceeding. The ultimate issue before the Commission, and this Court, is the fitness of respondent to practice his chosen profession. In determining that issue, the allegations of the complaint which are established by the required proof are viewed together and not separately. Iowa State Bar Assn. Comm. v. Kraschel, 260 Iowa 187, 194, 148 N.W.2d 621, 625-626 (1967).
III. The charge under Count I.
Assault and battery is a simple misdemeanor under section 694.1, The Code, 1977. A criminal conviction, however, is not a condition precedent to a disciplinary proceeding when the facts themselves warrant discipline. Iowa State Bar Assn. Comm. v. Kraschel, 260 Iowa at 198, 148 N.W.2d at 628; State v. Metcalfe, 204 Iowa 123, 127, 214 N.W. 874, 875 (1927). Cf. Comm. on Professional Ethics and Conduct v. Hanson, 244 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Iowa 1976). Respondent's conduct causes us to take appropriate action because it involves one attorney assaulting another attorney, or judicial officer, in a courthouse over a disagreement arising from a professional relationship.
This conduct violates Ethical Consideration 1-5, Canon 1, Iowa Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers which states:
Also violated by respondent's conduct, are EC 9-2 Canon 9, and section 610.14(1) and 610.24(3), The Code, 1977.
These sections provide as relevant:
The charges under Count I are sustained by a convincing preponderance of the evidence.
IV. The charge under Count II.
Respondent states in his brief that he has no quarrel with the right of the district judges to inquire into the particulars of the January 5 occurrence, and further states his version to the judges of the incident was "admittedly biased and prejudiced and in all probability somewhat inaccurate." We agree.
In his statement to the judges, respondent violated Disciplinary Rule 1-102(A)(4), Canon 1, which states:
"DR 1-102. Misconduct.
The version of the January 5 occurrence that respondent related to the judges contained many misrepresentations or misstatements of material facts and sustains the charge under Count II.
V. We must decide the penalty for respondent's violations. We agree with the recommendation of the Commission as to suspension.
It is ordered respondent be suspended indefinitely from the practice of law and shall not be reinstated for six months from the date of this decision. He is given leave to apply for reinstatement pursuant to court rule 118.13, providing he then furnish the court satisfactory proof that he is at that time of good moral character and in all ways worthy of the right to practice law. See Supreme Court Rule 118.
Respondent's suspension shall apply to and include all facets of the ordinary law practice, including, but not limited to, examination of abstracts, consummation of real estate transactions, and preparation of deeds, buy and sell agreements, contracts, wills and tax returns. He shall immediately transfer to other counsel all legal matters, if any, in which he has been engaged or employed as counsel. Upon any application for reinstatement respondent also shall prove he has not practiced law or performed any of the aforesaid services during the suspension period.
All Justices concur.