Idaho State Bar seeks to disbar Adams County prosecutor

The Star-News (McCall)September 20, 2013 

The Idaho State Bar is proposing to have Adams County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Ray Robinson disbarred for what the bar says are six instances of professional misconduct while working with clients in Robinson’s private practice.

A board of professional conduct has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 2 in Boise on the charges, two of which were brought by Robinson’s former clients and four of which were brought by the bar.

The board will make a recommendation to the Idaho Supreme Court. If the court disbars Robinson, he cannot apply to be reinstated as an attorney for five years, Assistant Bar Counsel Caralee Lambert said.

In his response, Robinson said he committed only minor errors in the cases and says the charges were unfairly brought against him.

Robinson, 55, of New Meadows, was sworn in as prosecutor in January.He defeated former prosecuting attorney Myron Dan Gabbert in the May 2102 Republican primary with 73 percent of the vote. Gabbert then ran as a write-in candidate in the November 2012 general election, but only garnered 7 percent of the vote.

The bar, a self-governing state agency, filed the charges in May, but the complaint was not made public until last month.

The charges against Robinson say he did not provide competent representation to his clients, did not show diligence and did not properly communicate with his clients.

Other charges say Robinson revealed confidential information about clients without their consent, did not protect his clients’ interest, brought proceedings that were frivolous, and engaged in conduct that “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

The first complaint was filed by the father of Conner Hall of McCall, who was charged in January 2012 with felony lewd conduct with a child under age 16. Hall later pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child and was given a withheld judgment.

Hall’s father, Randon Hall, filed the grievance against Robinson, who was hired to represent Conner. The grievance said Robinson tried to isolate Conner Hall from his family by filing court documents suggesting that Hall and his parents were immoral.

McCall attorney Todd Wilcox, who was hired by the Halls, said court documents filed by Robinson in the case “all but admitted Conner’s guilt.”

The second complaint was filed by Robert Lyons and Tracy VanDuren of McCall, who hired Robinson to represent them in a tort claim filed against the city of McCall in October 2010.

The tort claim said an officer of the McCall Police Department revealed VanDuren’s role as a police drug informant to drug dealers. The officer, Eric Fieldstad, resigned the next month. and the city paid Lyons and VanDuren $125,000 in December 2011 to settle the claim.

The complaint said Lyons and VanDuren had become dissatisfied with Robinson’s representation and fired him on July 1, 2011, saying Robinson “had failed to keep them reasonably informed, delayed their case” and failed to provide copies of documents related to the case.

The complaint said Robinson continued to act on behalf of Lyons and VanDuren despite being fired, and sent them a bill for $16,666, which he said was his share what he thought would be a reasonable settlement by the city.

The other four charges were filed by the bar “based upon information that came to this office from the courts,” Lambert said.

The first bar charge said Robinson failed to abide by the objectives of and maintain communication with a client who was charged in January 2012 with underage possession of alcohol. The girl pleaded guilty, but then wanted to change her plea to not guilty.

Robinson told the judge in the case that he wanted to use the girl’s case as a test to challenge the broader issue of whether minors should be questioned without a parent or attorney.

The judge expressed concern that Robinson did not discuss his plans thoroughly enough with the girl and replaced him with another attorney.

The second bar accusation said Robinson missed a court hearing on July 2012 for a client who was charged with driving without privileges. Robinson said he did not realize the hearing was scheduled.

The third bar complaint said Robinson missed the start of a trial for a divorce on May 24, 2012, and was ordered to appear at a contempt hearing. Robinson apologized for missing the trial, saying he assumed the trial would be delayed. He agreed to pay his client $200.

The fourth bar complaint involved a client of Robinson who had pleaded guilty to drunken driving. Robinson asked the court to allow his client to change his plea. Among the reasons Robinson gave was that he “had struggled with depression . . . and had confused (the client’s) case with another case.”

Robinson went on disability inactive status with the Idaho State Bar in 1995 after a diagnosis of having obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was reinstated to active practice in 2009 based on the recommendation of an expert, and after completing several requirements, including completing 60 hours of continuing education credits.

Robinson submitted a response to the charges on July 1 in which he said his new job as prosecuting attorney was helping him. “I feel good, I produce high-quality work, and I solve (or help solve) problems the county faces,” he wrote. He sees a psychologist at least every third month and does telephone consultations in-between in-person visits, Robinson said in his response.

He admitted he made mistakes regarding three of the grievances but suspected that he was being targeted. “It has seemed like a certain magistrate . . . is causing problems for me behind my back, and I also believe that an attorney . . . is causing problems for me behind me back” Robinson wrote.

He did not name the judge, but Valley County Magistrate Lamont C. Berecz was the judge on three of the four instances where the bar brought the charges. Robinson said later in his response that the attorney was Wilcox.

He said that Lyons and VanDuren were “of questionable veracity,” and questioned the credibility of Randon Hall.

Robinson issued the following statement after The Star-News informed him a story was going to be published about the disbarment proceedings:

“A formal complaint has been filed against me by the Idaho State Bar. An attorney represents me in this matter. I assume that he will approach the Bar regarding what its concerns are, and how we can address those concerns.”

“Day in and day out I deal with many people who make demands of me. Sometimes I make mistakes, and sometimes people are unhappy with me even when I didn’t make a mistake. I hope that most people I deal with like me, and like my work.”

“I don’t know the extent to which I am allowed to talk about the contents of the Bar complaint, but I believe that if I start defending myself I am likely to say something that I shouldn’t, e.g., that could hurt a client or me, prejudice a jury, or violate one of the ethics rules.”

“The media has been fair with me over the years, and so I would be glad to discuss this unpleasant situation when it is over.”

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