People v. Cohan, 96SA61

Decision Date25 March 1996
Docket NumberNo. 96SA61,96SA61
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Complainant, v. William A. COHAN, Attorney-Respondent.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Linda Donnelly, Disciplinary Counsel, Kenneth B. Pennywell, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, Denver, for Complainant.

Walter L. Gerash, Denver, for Attorney-Respondent.


The respondent and the assistant disciplinary counsel have entered into a stipulation, agreement, and conditional admission of misconduct. C.R.C.P. 241.18. An inquiry panel of the supreme court grievance committee approved the conditional admission, including the recommendation that the respondent be publicly censured. We accept the conditional admission and the inquiry panel's recommendation.


The respondent was admitted to the Colorado bar in 1976. The conditional admission in this case states:

a. The respondent was granted pro hac vice status in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in 1989 for the criminal trial of two defendants charged with violation of tax laws.

b. The respondent thereafter represented the defendants at trial which ended in convictions of both defendants.

c. Thereafter the respondent appealed the convictions on behalf of the defendants (acting with the approval of the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, as court-appointed counsel), which appeal was successful and the convictions overturned.

d. The defendants were retried with respondent representing them both. During the retrial, the respondent became embroiled in a series of verbal interactions with the presiding trial judge, the Honorable Jack E. Tanner. As a result, Judge Tanner entered a summary contempt order ordered the respondent jailed for 24 hours and referred the matter for disciplinary action.

e. The Honorable Judge Rothstein presided over respondent's disciplinary hearing. Following the hearing, Judge Rothstein suspended the respondent's permission to practice in the United States Western District, State of Washington for a period of three years with permission to re-apply after one year. The respondent was permitted to continue to represent the clients for whose case he had been admitted....

f. On February 11, 1994, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Engstrom, 16 F.3rd 1006 (9th Cir.1994), reversed the trial judge's contempt citation but upheld Judge Rothstein's disciplinary order....

The respondent has admitted that his conduct, for which he was suspended from the practice of law in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, violated DR 1-102(A)(5) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice), and DR 7-106(C)(6) (a lawyer shall not engage in undignified or discourteous conduct which is degrading to a tribunal when appearing in a professional capacity before that tribunal).


This proceeding is based on the respondent's misconduct while appearing pro hac vice in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. In a reciprocal disciplinary proceeding we generally impose the same discipline that was imposed in the other jurisdiction unless certain exceptions exist. People v. Meyer, 908 P.2d 123, 124 (Colo.1995). C.R.C.P. 241.17(d) provides in relevant part:

At the conclusion of proceedings brought under this Rule, the hearing panel shall refer the matter to the Supreme Court with the recommendation that the same discipline be imposed by the Supreme Court as was imposed by the foreign jurisdiction unless it is determined by the hearing panel that:

(1) The procedure followed in the foreign jurisdiction did not comport with requirements of due process of law;

(2) The proof upon which the foreign jurisdiction based its determination of misconduct is so infirm that the Supreme Court cannot, consistent with its duty, accept as final the determination of the foreign jurisdiction;

(3) The imposition by the Supreme Court of the same discipline as was imposed in the foreign jurisdiction would result in grave injustice; or

(4) The misconduct proved warrants that a substantially different form of discipline be imposed by the Supreme Court.

The respondent and the assistant disciplinary counsel stipulated that exceptions (3) and (4) apply in this case. That is, they agreed that imposition of a three-year suspension in Colorado based on the federal court suspension would result in a grave injustice, and that a public censure would be more appropriate.

The parties have also stipulated that the respondent primarily practices in California. Attached to the conditional admission is an "Order Regarding Stipulation as to Facts and Disposition" in In the Matter of William A. Cohan, No. 92-J-18118-ERP, from the California State Bar Court, filed May 31, 1995. The order regarding stipulation and its attachments indicate that the State Bar Court approved the stipulation concerning the same conduct for which the respondent was suspended in federal district court. The State Bar Court recommended to the California Supreme Court the disposition agreed on, which was that the respondent receive a public reproval, take and pass the California Professional Responsibility Examination within one year of the effective date of the reproval, and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

The assistant disciplinary counsel notes that the respondent was suspended from practicing before a federal district court in which he had appeared pro hac vice and in an isolated case. The impact on the respondent's ability to practice was relatively minor. A public censure is appropriate because a suspension for three years would have the effect of prohibiting the respondent from ...

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2 cases
  • People v. Reardon
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • June 1, 2016
    ...suggests that a more serious sanction may be needed to prevent such misconduct from recurring").40 See, e.g., People v. Cohan , 913 P.2d 523, 524–25 (Colo. 1996) (approving a stipulation to a public censure of an attorney who was suspended for three years by a federal court, and considering......
  • People v. Rodriguez, 97SA110
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • May 19, 1997
    ...respondent and the assistant disciplinary counsel stipulated that none of these four exceptions exist in this case. Cf. People v. Cohan, 913 P.2d 523, 524-25 (Colo.1996) (parties stipulating in a reciprocal discipline case that a three-year suspension in Colorado based on a federal court su......
2 books & journal articles
  • Can two wrongs make a "right" to seek indemnification of punitive damages from a liability insurance carrier?
    • United States
    • Florida Bar Journal Vol. 79 No. 3, March 2005
    • March 1, 2005
    ...662, 84 Cal.Rptr.2d at 465. (28) Lira, 913 P.2d at 518. (29) Soto, 83 N.Y.2d at 724,635 N.E.2d at 1225, 613 N.Y.S.2d at 355. (30) Lira, 913 P.2d at 523. (31) Ging, 423 F.2d at James H. Daniel is a shareholder in the law firm of Coker, Myers, Schickel, Sorenson & Green, P.A., Jacksonvill......
  • Opinions
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 29-2, February 2000
    • Invalid date
    ...and displayed disrespect for, a county court judge, prosecutor and court reporter. A public censure was imposed. In People v. Cohan, 913 P.2d 523 (Colo. 1996), the attorney became embroiled in a series verbal interactions with a presiding trial judge in the state of Washington, and the atto......

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