Marriya Wright, Spokane Attorney

Former Spokane County deputy prosecutor Marriya Wright, a former Spokane County Deputy prosecutor, pled guilty to second-degree rendering criminal assistance today.  The Spokesman-Review.  Ms. Wright provided assistance to a felon.  Watching her present herself to the court causes one to think she is an overly well-meaning innocent  who cares too much for the downtrodden.  See KXLY, Spokane.  She made a bad choice in trying to help a convicted felon Matthew Baumrucker, and in befriending him.

Will she lose her license to practice law?  She hopes not.  Her hope may be a lost hope.  The WSBA Rules of Professional Conduct require her disbarment. RPC  RULE 8.4(b) provides that it is professional misconduct to “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

Ms. Wright might argue that though she committed a criminal the act does nor reflect adversely on her character as a lawyer.  Despite her apparent good will and desire to help the WSBA will find she violated RPC 8.4(b).

 A clear nexus exists between an attorney’s willingness to violate the law and those characteristics relevant to law practice. See In re Disciplinary Proceeding Against Curran, 115 Wn.2d 747, 768, 801 P.2d 962 (1990) (“conduct reflecting adversely on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law can only be found when there is some nexus between the lawyer’s conduct and those characteristics relevant to law practice”). An attorney’s status as an attorney is not an excuse to violate the law, especially when acting on behalf of one’s clients.

IN RE DISCIPLINE OF CRAMER, 168 Wn.2d 220, 230-31 , 225 P.3d 881 (2010).

In lawyer discipline proceedings the Washington Supreme Court follows the American Bar Association’s Standards  for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions (1991 & Supp. 1992) .   ABA Standard 5.11(b) states that disbarment is the appropriate standard when a lawyer engages in any “intentional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation that seriously adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice” law.

 The Spokesman-Review tells us today that Ms. Wright pled to a violation which was a misdemeanor and that she will do no jail time.  The issue WSBA discipline counsel will consider is whether for purposes of RPC 8.4(b) the meaning of “commit a criminal act” includes a misdemeanor as well as a felony.

One would think a criminal act means an act which violates the law and which includes punishment for the act.  The term criminal act does not make a distinction between an act which is a felony and an act which is a misdemeanor.


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