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The Mississippi Bar v. Clegg

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

September 21, 2017

THE MISSISSIPPI BAR
v.
JOHN H. CLEGG

          ATTORNEY FOR COMPLAINANT: JAMES R. CLARK

          WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         ¶1. This matter is before the Court on the Mississippi Bar's formal complaint against attorney John H. Clegg pursuant to Rule 13 of the Mississippi Rules of Discipline.

         FACTS

         ¶2. Clegg is licensed to practice law in both Louisiana and Mississippi. On July 6, 2010, the Louisiana Supreme Court found that Clegg had violated Rule 8.4(a) and (b) of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct[1] by possessing and using crack cocaine, an illegal act that reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer. In re John H. Clegg, No. 10-B-0323, at 26 (La. Jul. 6, 2010). The Louisiana Court suspended Clegg from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day, with all but six months of the suspension deferred on the condition that Clegg provide written confirmation that he has executed a recovery agreement with the Louisiana Bar Association's Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP) prior to being reinstated. Id. at 29. Upon reinstatement, Clegg would be placed on unsupervised probation for two years, subject to the condition that he fully comply with the recovery agreement. Id.

         ¶3. According to the Louisiana State Bar Association's website, Clegg currently remains ineligible to practice law in Louisiana.[2] We also note that Clegg has been suspended from practicing law in Mississippi since 2011 for failure to pay his Bar dues.[3]

         ¶4. On March 7, 2017, [4] the Mississippi Bar filed the instant complaint against Clegg seeking reciprocal discipline under Rule 13. A certified copy of the Louisiana Court's judgment was included in the record. The Bar requests that this Court "appropriately discipline Mr. Clegg" and order him to pay costs and expenses associated with the filing of the instant case, along with any other relief deemed proper. The complaint was personally served on the Executive Director of the Mississippi Bar on March 9, 2017.[5] Clegg did not file a response to the complaint.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶5. This Court possesses the exclusive authority to discipline attorneys practicing within this state. Miss. R. Discipline 1(a). While Clegg currently is not an active member in good standing with the Mississippi Bar due to his failure to pay Bar dues, [6] this Court retains disciplinary jurisdiction over him nonetheless. See Miss. Bar v. Beal, 167 So.3d 180, 182 n.1 (Miss. 2014); Miss. Bar v. Inserra, 929 So.2d 884 (Miss. 2006).

         ¶6. Rule 13 of the Mississippi Rules of Discipline authorizes this Court to impose reciprocal discipline on a Mississippi-licensed attorney who has been sanctioned in another jurisdiction, upon certification from the other jurisdiction:

When an attorney should be subjected to disciplinary sanctions in another jurisdiction, such sanction shall be grounds for disciplinary action in this state, and certification of such sanction by the appropriate authority of such jurisdiction to the Executive Director of the Bar or to the Court, shall be conclusive evidence of the guilt of the offense or unprofessional conduct on which said sanction was ordered, and it will not be necessary to prove the grounds for such offense in the disciplinary proceeding in this state. The sole issue to be determined in the disciplinary proceeding in this state shall be the extent of the final discipline to be imposed on the attorney, which may be less or more severe than the discipline imposed by the other jurisdiction.

         Miss. R. Discipline 13. The certified copy of the Louisiana Supreme Court's judgment against Clegg serves as "conclusive evidence of the guilt of the offense or unprofessional conduct." Id. Accordingly, the sole issue before this Court is the discipline to be imposed. Id. In determining the appropriate sanction to impose, this Court considers the following criteria:

(1) the nature of the misconduct involved; (2) the need to deter similar misconduct; (3) the preservation of the dignity and reputation of the profession; (4) protection of the public; (5) the sanctions imposed in similar cases; (6) the duty violated; (7) the lawyer's mental state; (8) the actual or potential injury resulting from the misconduct; and (9) the existence of aggravating and/or mitigating factors.

Miss. Bar v. Hodges, 949 So.2d 683, 686 (Miss. 2006). "As long as each criterion is taken into consideration, we need not address each separately." Caldwell v. Miss. Bar, 118 So.3d 549, 554 (Miss. 2012) (citing Hodges, 949 So.2d at 686). In reciprocal-discipline cases, "the sanction imposed in this State generally mirrors the sanction imposed in the sister state, absent extraordinary circumstances which compel, justify or support variance from the ...


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