ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING
disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, John Julius Steger, IV, an attorney licensed to
practice law in Louisiana.
February 23, 1993, respondent was arrested during Mardi Gras
on charges of disturbing the peace and obscenity. Alcohol
consumption was involved. Records could no longer be located
regarding this arrest.
February 18, 2001, respondent was again arrested after having
consumed alcohol during Mardi Gras. He was charged with
interfering with police and public nudity. The charges were
October 3, 2002, respondent was arrested and charged with
operating a vehicle while intoxicated, reckless operation of
a motor vehicle, hit and run driving, and failure to use a
seatbelt. Respondent had consumed alcohol and the
prescription sleep aid Ambien. He was allowed to plead guilty
to a reduced charge of reckless operation of a vehicle under
the provisions of La. Code Crim. P. art. 894.
March 8, 2003, after consuming alcohol and Ambien, respondent
was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while
intoxicated and exceeding the speed limit. He was permitted
to enter a guilty plea to a reduced charge of reckless
operation of a vehicle under the provisions of La. Code Crim.
P. art. 894.
28, 2003, respondent was arrested and charged with simple
battery. The incident stemmed from an argument with his
girlfriend at their apartment. The matter was ultimately
dismissed without prosecution.
the above incidents were reported to the ODC by respondent or
any prosecuting authority in the State of Louisiana.
November 4, 2013, respondent consumed wine with dinner and
later took an Ambien "to help him sleep." He
continued to drink wine thereafter and estimates that he
drank two bottles of wine that evening. At some point,
respondent got into his car and drove it into a tree, causing
him to hit his head on the windshield. Emergency medical
services were called to the scene and respondent was taken to
the emergency room. While there, respondent was fitted with a
neck brace, which he proceeded to remove. As a nurse
attempted to restrain him and put the neck brace back on, he
bit the nurse, leading to a charge of battery. Respondent's
blood alcohol level at the time registered at .2%, more than
two and a half times the legal limit. Respondent was arrested
following day, on November 5, 2013, respondent consumed more
wine, took another Ambien, and blacked out. He then entered
his vehicle and commenced driving. Respondent was later
arrested for driving erratically. His blood alcohol level at
the time registered at .151%, nearly twice the legal
only after these two final incidents in successive days that
the matter was reported to the ODC by the prosecuting
submitted to an inpatient evaluation at the Pine Grove
Behavioral Health and Addiction Services. The evaluation
results, which were not available to the ODC until July 30,
2015, reflect that respondent suffered from alcohol
dependence. The medical professionals at Pine Grove indicated
that they were not confident in respondent's ability to
meet the responsibilities of a practicing attorney and
recommended that he enter a ninety-day residential treatment
April 2016, respondent had not participated in an inpatient
treatment program, despite the ODC urging him to do so.
Instead, he chose to participate in an intensive outpatient
program with Addiction Recovery Resources of New Orleans.
September 2016, the ODC filed formal charges against
respondent. The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct
violated the following provisions of the Rules of
Professional Conduct: 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). Respondent answered
the formal charges and admitted only some misconduct.
to a formal hearing in this matter, respondent filed into the
record a document styled "Stipulations by
Respondent," wherein he stipulated as follows:
1. Respondent has received and reviewed all of the exhibits
proposed to be introduced into the hearing of this matter by
the ODC and stipulates as to their admissibility and entry
into evidence in this proceeding.
2. Respondent has reviewed and hereby stipulates to all of
the factual allegations contained in the formal charges and
to the Rules of Professional Conduct violations set forth
3. Respondent has committed to entry into an inpatient
treatment program during May 2017 in compliance with the
recommendations of the multi-disciplinary professionals at
both Pine Grove and Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center.
entered into a treatment program at Palmetto and successfully
completed the ninety-day program in September 2017. On
September 11, 2017, he executed a five-year recovery
agreement with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program
("JLAP"). Respondent is currently in full
compliance with the agreement.
matter proceeded to a hearing conducted by the hearing
committee in April 2018. Both respondent and the ODC
introduced documentary evidence. The ODC called no witnesses
to testify at the hearing. Respondent called the following
witnesses: attorneys Kurt Garcia and Christine DeSue, who
have a friendship and business relationship with respondent;
William Arendell, LCSW, who works in the areas of addiction
and trauma; and Buddy ...