Ethics Tip To The Michigan Bar: Disbar Incompetent And Unethical Lawyers, The Justice System Works Better

There are too many stories like this. The Detroit News reports that Davontae Sanford, who spent his teen years and early 20s behind bars for multiple murders he didn’t commit, will be released today after the judge who presided over his 2008 trial vacated his sentence. It seems that he was innocent of the crimes, as a confession by someone else shortly after he was locked up should have suggested. Read the whole tale. I spit out a mouthful of coffee, however, when I got to this part, near the end of the article.

Sharing criticism for this miscarriage of justice, along with police and prosecutors,  is Sanford’s original attorney, Robert Slameka.  Sanford’s current attorney told reporters,

“One of the really tremendous failures of the system was his defense attorney. There was not one pretrial motion that was brought. Davontae’s confession had all the hallmarks of a false confession; (it was) never challenged. The failures are manifest, but a lot of it falls to the one person who was supposed to protect Davontae in this process, and that was his attorney. And that wasn’t done, and when that’s not done, the system sort of collapses.”

This lawyer didn’t stutter (that is, I don’t think so) but  convinced Sanford to plead guilty to second-degree murder, telling him prosecutors had an iron-clad case, and that if he pleaded, he’d get out of prison earlier. While allegedly defending the teen,  Slameka waived making an opening statement (maybe he DID stutter!) , and never cross-examined the detective who questioned Sanford.

Then the Detroit News notes that Slameka has been censured  by the state Attorney Discipline Board for improperly representing clients…well hey, lets have a quiz!

Choose One:

A. Once

B. Three times

C. Ten times

D. More than ten times

The answer is D. More than ten times. Slameka has been censored 17 times for incompetent and unethical representation, yet he would still be representing trusting defendants like Davontae Sanford and getting them sent to prison had his law license not been suspended after he was convicted last year of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s house.

Wait, what??? Was that word really “suspended?” What does it take to get a lawyer disbarred in Michigan? With a license that has only been suspended, Robert Slameka will be able to practice law again.

A profession that doesn’t regulate and police its members more responsibly than this can’t be trusted to serve the public.


Pointer: Fred

11 thoughts on “Ethics Tip To The Michigan Bar: Disbar Incompetent And Unethical Lawyers, The Justice System Works Better

  1. I don’t know if they keep stats on this (or how easy it would be to compile), but it would be interesting to know disbarment rates for each state. That may be something useful for you to compile to discuss on your lucrative speaking tour, Jack.

    Early on in each year, my state’s Board announces statistics and there are roughly 1200-1500 complaints against lawyers every year. 10% (maybe 20%) warrant discipline and we disbar about 8-12 lawyers each year. That would be out of an active bar of 20,000 to 25,000 (I would guess).


  2. I’m licensed in two states, one being Michigan. In the other state, I can’t imagine a lawyer being censured 17 times and keeping his license.

    A huge problem is the compensation system for public defenders.

  3. Not just Michigan. I once testified against a lawyer who was facing DC, Connecticut and New Jersey disciplinary hearings. (He was admitted in all three states.) All three disciplinary boards agreed that he had intercepted a check written by his client to a third party and forged the third party’s signature to cash the check and steal the funds. The heaviest penalty he received was a one-year suspension, on the grounds that it was only a few thousand dollars and he had made restitution after being caught. He was finally disbarred a few years later when he was sent to prison for embezzling several hundred thousand dollars held in escrow for multiple clients.

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