The Utah Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the Utah Bar's disbarment of Richard J. Calder from practicing law in Utah, ruling his "neglect and incompetence" caused grave economic harm to clients.
The high court, in the ruling released Thursday, ordered the Salt Lake area lawyer to pay the costs of prosecution and said he can't seek reinstatement unless and until he satisfies a malpractice judgment against him.In February 1989, a disciplinary panel, after five days of hearings, recommended Calder be disbarred and the Board of Bar Commissioners adopted the recommendation.
Calder objected and a hearing was conducted by a three-member bar panel, which urged adoption of the board's earlier recommendation of disbarment.
Calder contended the panel considered facts and issues beyond the scope of the bar's complaints against him, and that the panel mistakenly relied on an erroneous interpretation of a Utah statute in assessing the damage done by his misconduct to one of his clients.
He also said the panel's findings deserved little or no deference from the Supreme Court; and that the panel's recommendation of disbarment was disproportionate to his misconduct.
The ruling, written by Justice Christine Durham, was made after the court reviewed more than 1,000 pages of hearing transcript.
The court rejected Calder's contention that, because it must exercise ultimate constitutional authority in attorney discipline, it should not accord any deference to the Utah State Bar's findings and disciplinary recommendations.
It said, "We treat factual findings by fact-finding entities within the bar much the same way as we treat such findings from administrative agencies and will sustain them unless they are unsupported by the evidence and are arbitrary and capricious.
"If they are unreasonable, we will reject them; if they are reasonable, we will accept and approve them," the court said.
In this case, the justices said the findings "are overwhelmingly supported by the evidence."