Christie, Matter of

Decision Date23 January 1990
PartiesIn the Matter of John R. CHRISTIE, A Member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of Delaware. . Submitted:
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Delaware

L. Susan Faw, Disciplinary Counsel for Bd. on Professional Responsibility, Wilmington.

John M. Willard, Wilmington, for John R. Christie.

Before HORSEY, MOORE, WALSH and HOLLAND, JJ., and ALLEN Chancellor (sitting by designation pursuant to Del. Const. art. IV, § 12) (constituting the Court en banc).


This is an attorney Disciplinary proceeding. It has been referred to the Court by its Board on Professional Responsibility (the "Board"). The conduct which gave rise to this disciplinary proceeding occurred over a ten day period between January 22 and February 1, 1987. During this time, the respondent, John R. Christie ("Christie") invited two teenage male minors to his apartment. Christie provided the minors with alcoholic beverages, showed them "X-rated" video tapes, and masturbated in their presence. According to Christie, he was introducing "the boys to sex and alcohol in moderation."

Christie was arrested as a result of his interaction with these male minors. The record reflects that the Delaware Department of Justice charged Christie with every crime that it had competent evidence to support. Christie entered pleas of guilty, as charged, to thirteen criminal misdemeanors: sexual harassment (4 counts); indecent exposure (3 counts); endangering the welfare of a child (3 counts); and unlawfully dealing with a child (3 counts).

The Board has found that Christie, by committing criminal acts in violation of 11 Del.C. §§ 763, 765, 1102 and 1106, engaged in a course of conduct which adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer and forms the basis for finding him in violation of Rule 8.4(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Christie accepts the Board's findings. Disciplinary Counsel also accepts those findings. Therefore, the issue to be decided by this Court is the appropriate sanction for Christie's professional misconduct.


This matter was originally heard by the Board on June 17, 1988. Christie submitted a conditional admission to the charges of professional misconduct in exchange for a two-year suspension, pursuant to what was then Rule 18 of the Rules of the Board on Professional Responsibility. Evidence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances was presented to the Board. After the hearing, in a Final Report dated July 19, 1988, the Board recommended that Christie's conditional admission be accepted by this Court.

By Order dated October 17, 1988, this Court rejected Christie's conditional admission and remanded the case to the Board. Christie waived his right to a new hearing. The Board reconvened and submitted a Report Upon Remand dated December 7, 1988. The report set forth findings of fact, as well as findings concerning aggravating and mitigating circumstances. However, in this report the Board made no recommendation concerning sanctions.


The Board's findings of fact with respect to the underlying charges of professional misconduct, as set forth in its first two reports are, in pertinent part, as follows:

1. John R. Christie is a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of Delaware, having been admitted to practice on October 31, 1986.

2. Between January 22, 1987, and February 1, 1987, Christie, did suggest, importune or attempt to induce two male minors to have sexual contact with him; did intentionally expose his genitals knowing he was likely to cause the male minors affront or alarm; did provide the male minors with alcoholic beverages, which resulted in the male minors become [sic] delinquent children; and did knowingly permit the male minors to enter and remain in his dwelling, a place where unlawful sexual activity was conducted.

3. On or about February 10, 1987, Christie was notified of a criminal investigation into his activities and he contacted his attorney. Upon discussing the nature of the investigation with his attorney, Christie then gave to the police a full and complete confession as to his activities. Approximately one month later, he was admitted into a program at Johns Hopkins University for sexual offenders which included three weeks as an in-patient for treatment of possible sexual disorders or deviate sexual desires or behaviors and out-patient therapy thereafter. The out-patient therapy was once a week every week for approximately two and one-half hours per session of group therapy until the end of 1987. Thereafter, Christie attended therapy once every two weeks.

4. An investigation by the Department of Justice ensued. Upon arrest, Christie notified Disciplinary Counsel of his arrest, the nature of the charges against him, and agreed to be cooperative with her. Further, Christie was then in the employ of the Superior Court of the State of Delaware as a law clerk and he immediately tendered his resignation from the Superior Court. From that point forward, Christie refrained from practicing law or otherwise involving himself in the legal profession except as a paralegal doing legal research and investigative work.

5. On February 22, 1988, Christie entered into a plea agreement with the State of Delaware whereby he entered pleas of guilty to adult informations alleging four counts of Sexual Harassment, three counts of Indecent Exposure in the First Degree, three counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child and three counts of Unlawfully Dealing with a Child. Said plea bargain also includes the commitment of Christie that in the event he is disbarred, suspended, or otherwise prohibited from the practice of law, that he agrees not to apply for reinstatement for a period of three years from the date of his suspension from Superior Court. That is, no sooner than March 1, 1990. Further, Christie agreed not to apply for membership to any other bar for a period of three years during a suspension, or if disbarred, for a period of five years.

6. On May 31, 1988, a Judge of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County, sentenced Christie to five years supervised probation. As a condition of that probation, Christie was to continue his therapeutic programs, engage in 150 hours of community service, pay the evaluation and therapeutic expenses of the minor male children, and to have no contact with the minor male children.

In aggravation of the instances of professional misconduct, the Board found:

The allegations in this case, as admitted by Christie, charge a pattern of repeated sexual misconduct involving male minors that seriously reflect on Christie's ability to maintain his personal integrity. While Christie's misconduct did not involve professional duties to the public, to the legal system, or to the profession, his failure to maintain his personal integrity can neither be condoned nor tolerated and severe discipline must be imposed.

In mitigation of the instances of professional misconduct, the Board found:

In considering the circumstances or factors that may mitigate the degree of discipline to be imposed upon Christie, the Board found that it was significant that he sought professional help, including residential patient treatment and continuing therapy soon after the events referred to above. Christie has further been contrite and remorseful in his conduct and has cooperated with the Department of Justice, the Disciplinary Counsel, and has freely admitted his violations of the law and the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Upon the happening of the events referred to above, Christie resigned his employment with the Superior Court and imposed upon himself a suspension from the practice of law which was appropriate under the circumstances. Under the plea agreement, Christie has agreed not to seek reinstatement to practice law prior to March 1, 1990, or, in the case of disbarment, for a period of five years.


On May 3, 1989, this Court again remanded the matter to the Board for further proceedings and identified the following areas for inquiry by the Board:

1. The enlargement of the record on the subject of pedophilia, its diagnosis, control, and the rate of recidivism associated with it;

2. A factual dispute between the Respondent and the victims on whether or not acts of fellatio did or did not take place; and

3. The effect (psychological, emotional or otherwise) upon the victims of the Respondent's conduct.

On July 24, 1989, a Panel of the Board convened to consider the matters to be brought before it in accordance with the Order of this Court dated May 3, 1989. 1 The report of the Board following its second hearing upon remand, stated, in part:

[1.] In order to further enlighten the Panel and the Supreme Court on the subject matter of pedophilia, its diagnosis, control, and the rate of recidivism associated with it, the Respondent offered the testimony of Fred S. Berlin, M.D., PhD., a psychiatrist who is the Director of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital and is attending the Respondent. Disciplinary Counsel called as her witness Park Elliott Dietz, M.D., M.P.H., PhD., a forensic psychiatrist who consults with attorneys, courts and law enforcement agencies in the fields of criminal, personal injury, and psychiatric malpractice cases.

. . . . .

In assessing recidivism as it applies to nonexclusive or regressed homosexual pedophilia Dr. Berlin described his efforts of quantifying the recidivism rate, as the result of follow-up with 158 people, and his efforts indicated a success rate of 90% in that there was no rearrest indicated over a three to four year period.

. . . . .

... In attempting to define whether or not homosexual pedophilia was a result of moral deficiency, Berlin indicated that in one sense homosexual pedophilia is not the person's fault in that the cravings or temptations are outside the persons control. However, Berlin did not exclude ethical or moral concerns in evaluating the...

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