Thursday, July 24, 2014
State Bar Court Recommends Suspension for Former Federal Prosecutor
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar Court has recommended a minimum three-year suspension for a former federal prosecutor based on misconduct he engaged in while working as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C.
In a ruling made public by the State Bar yesterday, Hearing Judge Donald Miles said that G. Paul Howes, who has been disbarred in the District of Columbia, committed serious misconduct warranting the suspension, which will not be lifted until the attorney proves rehabilitation.
Noting Howes’ many charitable activities, the hearing judge wrote:
“Although this court finds no basis for recommending that [Howes] be disbarred in this state as a result of his misconduct two decades ago in the District of Columbia, the court does conclude that significant discipline is nonetheless required.”
The State Bar explained in a release that Howes, from 1984 until 1995, prosecuted major homicides and served as one of the first five prosecutors on his office’s Drug Homicide Strike Force. The misconduct dates back prior to Howes’ admission to the State Bar of California in 1987.
Howes was found to have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct applicable to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, for wrongfully distributing more than $42,000 in federal witness vouchers, vouchers intended to defray the costs for witnesses who appear in judicial proceedings. Howes issued these vouchers to individuals not eligible to receive them, including informants’ relatives and girlfriends in high-profile murder and gang cases, the disciplinary authorities found.
Federal regulations provide that in a felony prosecution, a fact witness is allowed to be paid an “attendance fee . . . for each day’s attendance” at a judicial proceeding “for the time necessarily occupied in going to and returning from the place of attendance.” The regulations also allow for modest transportation and subsistence expenses.
However, 28 U.S.C. §1821(f) says that “any witness who is incarcerated at the time that his or her testimony is given...may not receive fees or allowances under this section,” and 28 C.F.R. §21.4 (d) reiterates this limitation on voucher use, providing that “[a] witness in custody . . . is ineligible to receive the attendance and subsistence fees provided by this section.”
Howes stipulated that he knowingly breached those rules by issuing vouchers to incarcerated witnesses, and provided vouchers to the “family and friends of government witnesses for unauthorized purposes.”
He was ordered disbarred in the District of Columbia two years ago by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Justice Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of that court noted that 684 vouchers “were signed by or on behalf of G. Paul Howes,” entailing total payments to government witnesses in the amount of $140,918.14.
Blackburne-Rigsby found the misconduct to be aggravated and prolonged, making disbarment is the appropriate sanction.
Howes currently works as an investigator for a law firm in Texas that specializes in asbestos exposure/mesothelioma cases. He did not respond to a MetNews email seeking comment on the State Bar Court’s recommendation, which is subject to review by the state Supreme Court.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company