In what should come as a surprise to no one, sometimes lawyers can be the criminals, too. Such is the case with Joshua Robinson, who reportedly chased one of his clients with a wooden baseball bat and allegedly proceeded to beat him. Now in addition to a criminal conviction, Robinson faces life without a law license after the West Virginia Supreme Court disbarred him.
According to the Supreme Court, Robinson beat his client, David Gump, on his front steps with the baseball bat, then chased Gump down the street and beat him some more. Gump was unarmed. Robinson later pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawful wounding and received a sentence of one to five years of home confinement. Although Robinson argued that Gump was a drug addict who had tried to break into Robinson’s home, the Supreme Court did not believe him. It was allegedly not Robinson’s first outburst of violence — he had reportedly previously used a propane tank to break the window of his wife’s car as she was driving away from their home, and allegedly had a long history of criminal behavior dating back to 1995.
The Supreme Court ruled that beating your client is unethical behavior for an attorney. Robinson received his license in Kentucky, which has reciprocity with West Virginia, meaning that Robinson’s status as a licensed attorney is recognized in West Virginia without Robinson having to pass West Virginia’s bar. Under Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b), an attorney must not “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” Under Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(c), an attorney must not “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” The Supreme Court found that Robinson had violated both rules. The justices noted that not only did Robinson cause serious physical harm to Gump, but also that he “injured the public by lessening people’s faith and confidence in the legal profession.” They did not believe that Robinson’s prior lack of discipline should serve as a mitigating factor. Robinson also faces disciplinary charges in Kentucky.
If an attorney is permanently disbarred in another jurisdiction, Kentucky does not permit that attorney to apply for reinstatement. It does not appear that Robinson’s disbarment is permanent — the Supreme Court stated that he would need to undergo a psychiatric exam, an extensive course in anger management, and follow any treatment that is recommended. If Robinson is able to clear these hurdles, he could be reinstated, with two years of supervision. However, if Robinson has more such episodes then it would not be surprising if his disbarment becomes permanent.
It just shows that if you are a West Virginia criminal defense attorney, you will frequently get clients who face consequences in addition to criminal charges. Even though Robinson was an attorney himself, it is not uncommon for attorneys to hire other attorneys for their defense if the other one has more experience in that area of law. Law is supposed to be a noble profession, which is why the rules of conduct in each state are numerous and very strict. They are also frequently enforced, as Robinson found out to his misfortune.