What a waste of time and money.
That’s how we assess the recent motion filed by Seth Morris, an attorney from Lincoln, that sought disciplinary action against Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith.
As Madison County District Court Judge Mark Johnson said in his comments in denying the motion, Mr. Morris’ testimony “lacked credibility” because of a number of inconsistent or untrue statements he made.
We couldn’t agree more.
The filing of the motion — because of the nature of the complaint — required that it be handled seriously and appropriately even though reactions to the motion by many were immediately skeptical.
Here’s what took place: Mr. Morris is representing a Madison County client who was incarcerated in the county jail while awaiting trial.
After a number of phone calls between the incarcerated client and Mr. Morris were recorded and turned over to the county attorney’s office, Mr. Morris alleged this was a violation of attorney-client privilege and also violated his client’s right to a fair trial.
In his complaint, Mr. Morris wanted Joseph Smith to be recused from the case. But that’s not all. He also wanted the county attorney to be disciplined, to have his client’s attorney fees be reimbursed and, if that weren’t enough, that the case be dismissed.
A closer look at the situation tells a different story.
Calls to the county jail are routinely recorded, but provisions exist — and were available and in use — to allow attorneys to request phone calls to clients in jail not to be recorded. That option wasn’t fully made use of by Mr. Morris.
It’s also pertinent to note that when any phone call is recorded, there is an advisement at the beginning of the call stating that it is being recorded. Mr. Morris said he never heard the warning.
And it also should be pointed out that the county attorney was the person who alerted Mr. Morris to the fact that it appeared some conversations between Mr. Morris and his client had been provided to the county attorney’s office.
From our perspective, it all adds up to no wrongdoing by the Joseph Smith and perhaps a serious lack of attention to details and procedural matters by the defense attorney.
We’re glad that Judge Johnson recognized the reality of the situation and denied Mr. Morris’ motion. But it’s still bothersome that so much time and expense was needed to ultimately appropriately deal with what we see as frivolous legal maneuvering.