LA Attorney Adam Anthony Abdalla Should Be Disbarred; Recovery From Severe Opioid Addiction Not Considered

View More Categories

It is NOT a justification for committed GRAND THEFT in STEALING $40,000 is that you have a "serious" illegal drug addiction issue. That such a defense is even thought  to be a viable consideration is an indictment of the State Bar disciplinary review process.

LA Attorney Adam Anthony Abdalla Should Be Disbarred; Recovery From Severe Opioid Addiction Not Considered

A Louisiana Hearing Committee has recommended that attorney Adam Anthony Abdalla who had stolen nearly $40,000 from his law firm be disbarred notwithstanding his progress in recovery from a severe opioid addiction

The evidence presented to the committee establishes that Respondent was addicted to opioid medication, has been sober since June 2015, and is well equipped with the tools needed to manage his sobriety moving forward. The committee was impressed by the friends and family members who testified on Respondent’s behalf, and is confident that Respondent has the support structure in place around him to help maintain his sobriety.

All of the evidence presented to this committee was that, prior to developing a severe opioid addiction in late 2012, at age 32, Respondent was respected for his character, integrity and professional skills. There was no evidence presented that, prior to developing the opioid addiction, Respondent had any previous substance abuse or addiction problems.

While addiction recovery is a “day by day” process, all of the evidence presented suggests that Respondent has a high likelihood of maintaining his sobriety. His recovery program at Palmetto was specifically focused on professionals returning to work, and, through the JLAP program, he has on-demand access to high-quality treatment options. Though, at the peak of his addiction, Respondent was consuming shockingly high doses of opioids, it does not appear to the Committee that the specter of his prior addiction, if managed properly, presents a significant danger to the public or the profession.

However, the committee finds that the thefts committed by Respondent, though done in the midst of a severe addiction, were executed knowingly, over an extended period of time, and with significant planning and forethought.  Respondent stole a total of $39,085.86 in eleven separate acts. It was Respondent’s specific business and professional knowledge and skill that allowed him to commit these thefts and, for a time, conceal them from his employer and clients...

It is clear that, for the better portion of the last few years, Mr. Abdalla was a fully ensnared opioid addict, but this Committee finds that there was not sufficient evidence presented to show “direct causation between” his chemical dependency and the misconduct for which he has been charged...

While, in the instant matter, some friends and family testified that Mr. Abdalla was a different man during his addiction, and not someone who would be expected to steal under normal circumstances, Respondent did not present expert testimony that his disability was the cause of the misconduct. Though he may have used the money taken to support his addiction, that fact is not necessarily proof that the addiction caused his misconduct. Respondent knew that what he was doing was wrong and he used various, sophisticated methods to accomplish his criminal acts over an extended period.

I was the disciplinary prosecutor in the first addiction-as-mitigation case in the District of Columbia.

I confess that I am a bit uncomfortable with the "all or nothing" approach to such mitigation evidence.

The D. C. Court of Appeals held that concerns about ongoing recovery in a case that involved bipolar disorder merited rejection of mitigation in light of the care required to execute a dishonest scheme.

We are...troubled by the fact that respondent carried on a complex course of misconduct for a period of some five years. During that entire period, none of respondent's co-workers and employees knew he had any type of illness, let alone suspected misconduct. Respondent's own wife told Dr. Kraff that she'd had no idea what had been going on and, indeed, was shocked to learn of her husband's billing misconduct. It is therefore not a frivolous concern that should respondent suffer a relapse, he could resume his misconduct and cause significantly more harm before he is found out once more...

We are not without sympathy for Mr. Appler; at least for the time being, his bipolar condition will prevent him from continuing to practice law.  But respondent is not being disbarred because he suffers from bipolar illness; he is being disbarred because that illness caused him to commit serious, damaging crimes in the past, and we are not convinced that it will not likely cause him to commit similar crimes in the future. Therefore, even though our purpose is not to punish, we, unfortunately, cannot put our sympathies for an attorney's medical condition above the interests of the public at large.

A footnote in the Appler case noted he also had a narcissistic personality disorder

This distinction is important. Bipolar illness takes away some degree of control and thus, in the right circumstances, could be cause for mitigation. A person suffering from narcissistic disorder maintains the ability to exercise volition and thus would seem to have a harder time raising a Kersey defense. See HCP 3/25:156-57. Because we ultimately find that bipolar disorder was a substantial cause of the misconduct in this case, however, we need not reach the issue of whether narcissistic personality disorder can be grounds for Kersey mitigation.

If and when a court concludes that lawyer sanctions are mitigated by narcissism, we can pretty much stop disbarring lawyers and place them all on probation.

How does one demonstrate recovery from narcissistic personality disorder? 

Source: Professional Legal Blog