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In re Schertler

Supreme Court of Louisiana

September 24, 2019

IN RE: EDWARD DUANE SCHERTLER, II

          ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM.

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Edward Duane Schertler, II, [1] an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently on interim suspension.

         FORMAL CHARGES

         On March 4, 2016, respondent attempted to introduce contraband into the Lafourche Parish Detention Center. Specifically, on the evening of March 4, 2016 at approximately 9:15 p.m., respondent arrived at the Lafourche Parish Detention Center identifying himself as an attorney and seeking to visit an inmate client. Respondent attempted to enter the facility with a briefcase and objected to his briefcase being searched. When asked for identification, respondent produced a suspended driver's license (expired since 2010) and an older, damaged Louisiana State Bar Association Identification Card. When the jail staff opened his briefcase, respondent reportedly became nervous and objected to them looking through his briefcase, asserting "attorney-client privilege." After explaining that they merely intended to examine the contents for contraband, respondent opened his briefcase and attempted to obscure their view of the contents, which included several plastic heat-sealed bags. The bags contained four cellular flip phones, chargers, and tobacco, each of which is strictly forbidden as contraband. After being advised that such contraband was prohibited, respondent nervously left the detention center. Upon further investigation, law enforcement determined that, in a telephone call recorded by the prison system, respondent had prearranged his effort to smuggle contraband to an inmate within the facility. An arrest warrant was sought and obtained for his attempt to introduce contraband into a penal institution, which is a felony.

         Additionally, respondent was charged with felony drug charges and possession of stolen items. These charges arose when law enforcement went to respondent's home to arrest him on the outstanding arrest warrant. After noting the presence of drugs in plain view, law enforcement obtained a search warrant for his residence and located Suboxone, marijuana, a .50 caliber weapon, a firearm with an obliterated serial number, and a stolen outboard motor.

         Following his arrest, respondent's counsel advised the ODC that respondent had been released on bail and intended to enter a drug treatment facility. Thereafter, respondent failed to enter a long-term treatment facility as indicated, failed to appear for multiple court appearances, and for a time was considered a fugitive from justice for whom a bench warrant remained outstanding until recently.

         In light of respondent's conduct, on May 25, 2016, we interimly suspended him from the practice of law. In re: Schertler, 16-0951 (La. 5/25/16), 193 So.3d 118.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In January 2018, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent, alleging that his conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct), 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer), 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 8.4(d) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

         After being personally served with the formal charges, respondent failed to answer. Accordingly, the factual allegations contained therein were deemed admitted and proven by clear and convincing evidence pursuant to Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 11(E)(3). No formal hearing was held, but the parties were given an opportunity to file with the hearing committee written arguments and documentary evidence on the issue of sanctions. Respondent filed nothing for the hearing committee's consideration.

         In its filing, the ODC indicated that respondent was eventually apprehended and served thirty days in jail on contempt charges for failing to appear when ordered. The ODC also indicated that respondent and the prosecutor reached a plea agreement wherein respondent would plead guilty to attempting to introduce contraband into a penal facility and possession of stolen things over $500. However, on April 5, 2018 when respondent was to enter his guilty pleas, the judge was concerned because respondent seemed impaired. The judge postponed the matter and remanded respondent into custody until the following week. On April 11, 2018, respondent returned to court and entered his guilty pleas. At that time, he was sentenced to two years of incarceration and remains incarcerated at this time.

         Hearing Committee Report

         After considering the ODC's deemed admitted submission and acknowledging that the factual allegations in the formal charges were deemed admitted, the ...


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