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In re Stadler

Supreme Court of Louisiana

November 5, 2018

IN RE: LINDA LOUISE STADLER

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Linda Louise Stadler, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana.

         UNDERLYING FACTS

         In December 2002, respondent was arrested in Slidell, Louisiana and charged with driving while intoxicated ("DWI") and improper lane usage. In August 2003, she pleaded guilty to both charges and was placed on a one-year period of supervised probation with conditions. Respondent completed all conditions of her probation, and her probation was terminated on February 13, 2004. This matter was later expunged from respondent's record.

         Twelve years later, in August 2014, respondent was again arrested in Slidell and charged with DWI. Two weeks later, she pleaded guilty as charged and was placed on a two-year period of supervised probation with conditions, including completion of a substance abuse program. Respondent completed all conditions of her probation, and her probation was terminated on November 16, 2015.

         Following the 2014 incident, respondent contacted the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP") for assistance. On January 21, 2015, respondent underwent a psychological evaluation conducted by Jamie Landry, Ph.D. Dr. Landry diagnosed respondent with mild alcohol use disorder, in early remission, and recommended six weekly individual therapy sessions addressing substance use and abuse. Respondent successfully completed the sessions. On December 10, 2015, JLAP informed the ODC that it had no further recommendations for respondent. JLAP did not require or recommend that respondent enter into a recovery agreement or that she be subject to supervision or screening of any kind.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In March 2016, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent, alleging that her conduct, as set forth above, violated Rules 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct) and 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In her answer, respondent admitted to "all material facts alleged in the formal charges." She also admitted to violating the Rules of Professional Conduct as charged and requested a hearing in mitigation.

         Hearing Committee Report

         Following the mitigation hearing, the hearing committee reviewed the evidence and testimony, noting that respondent called three character witnesses to testify. In addition to the three character witnesses, respondent, her therapist, and JLAP's executive director also testified. The committee indicated respondent testified that, after her 2002 arrest, she did not consume alcohol until the day of her 2014 arrest. She has not consumed any alcohol since her 2014 arrest and described herself as a non-drinker. The committee then indicated respondent's therapist, Chastity Young, testified that respondent is not experiencing an active substance abuse problem. Instead, Ms. Young described respondent as a binge drinker, one who over-indulges once she starts drinking. She also did not think it was likely respondent would relapse. Finally, the committee indicated Buddy Stockwell, JLAP's executive director, testified that respondent called him soon after the 2014 arrest, seeking help. He described her as conscientious, concerned, open, and honest about the events leading to her arrest, and he felt she was "crushed" by her conduct. Mr. Stockwell also testified that he had no concerns about respondent's fitness to practice law and that she no longer needed the assistance of JLAP.

         Based on this testimony and the other evidence presented at the hearing, the committee found respondent does not have an ongoing alcohol problem that needs treatment. The committee also found that respondent is not dishonest and has made a good faith effort to rectify her conduct. The committee further noted that respondent was cooperative with the ODC and JLAP, has good character and a good reputation, and has exhibited remorse. Finally, the committee found that respondent understands her conduct reflects negatively on the legal profession.

         Although the committee did not specifically find any rule violations, the committee did determine that respondent violated duties owed to the public and the legal profession. The committee also determined respondent acted knowingly and intentionally in driving while intoxicated and caused actual harm to the legal profession. After considering the ABA's Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, the committee determined the baseline sanction is suspension. The committee then found the following mitigating factors present: the absence of a prior disciplinary record, timely good faith effort to rectify the consequences of the misconduct, a cooperative attitude toward the proceedings, remorse, and full cooperation and compliance with JLAP.

         After further considering this court's prior jurisprudence addressing similar misconduct, and emphasizing the fact that respondent has not been found to be an alcoholic in need of a JLAP recovery agreement, the committee recommended she be ...


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