Update on the Bart Simpson sanction.

In 40 minutes, I’m presenting a CLE for the Vermont Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  I have an update for them.

For those of you who don’t know, the opening to every episode of The Simpsons includes a brief shot of Bart being punished at school. The punishment is always him having to write a sentence over & over on a chalkboard.  The sentence changes each episode.


Last year, I blogged about the Ohio lawyer who was found in contempt, fined, and ordered to channel his inner Bart Simpson.  Specifically, the court ordered the lawyer to write – legibly – each of the following phrases 25 times:

  • I will not engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice or in any other conduct that adversely reflects on my fitness to practice law.
  • I shall not engage in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal or engage in undignified or discourteous conduct that is disruptive to a tribunal.

Last Friday, the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct recommended that the Ohio Supreme Court publicly reprimand the lawyer.  The ABA Journal and Cleveland.com covered the story.

As a refresher, the lawyer represented a person charged with felonious assault and domestic violence.  The lawyer became upset that the judge denied his request to give the jury a “self-defense” instruction.  From the Board’s report:

  • “The facts to which the parties have stipulated characterize Respondent’s reaction to the judge’s ruling as staging a protest. The protest consisted of Respondent’s repeated efforts to stop the trial from proceeding, and he told Judge Fuerst that he would sit in the back of the courtroom.  Judge Fuerst ordered Respondent to sit at defense table and be quiet. While the judge was instructing the jury, Respondent left defense table and stood behind a television stand. Respondent admits that, ‘I moved away from the table so it was clear I’m not participating.’ Judge Fuerst stopped instructing the jury and dismissed the jury for a lunch break. The trial later resumed, and the jury returned guilty verdicts for the lesser offense of aggravated assault and domestic violence.”

A few years ago, I outlined Vermont’s disciplinary process, including the manner in which hearing panels decide the sanction to impose. By rule, a panel’s options are:

  • Admonition:(does not identify the lawyer or impact the lawyer’s privilege to practice)
  • Reprimand: (identifies the lawyer, but doesn’t impact the lawyer’s privilege to practice)
  • Suspension: (identifies the lawyer and suspends the lawyer’s privilege to practice for anywhere from 1 day to 3 years)
  • Disbarment: (identifies the lawyer and suspends the lawyer’s privilege to practice for 5 years).

In addition, terms of probation can be attached to any sanction.

To date, no panel has imposed probationary terms that included the Bart Simpson punishment.