The Wyoming Supreme Court today issued an order of public censure to attorney Edward P. Moriarity of Missoula, Montana. In addition to being licensed to practice law in Wyoming, Moriarty is licensed in Montana, Arizona and Utah.
The Wyoming censure came after Moriarity was disbarred in Arizona for his conduct in representing Lisa Aubuchon, a Phoenix attorney. Moriarity defended Aubuchon against disciplinary charges that were brought against her by the Arizona State Bar. Aubuchon was disbarred by the Arizona Supreme Court in 2013. See In re Aubuchon, 309 P.3d 886 (Ariz. 2013). While he was representing Aubuchon in the disciplinary proceeding, Moriarity filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Aubuchon and others against numerous government officials and a law firm in Phoenix, Arizona. The claims against the law firm and two of its partners were dismissed as frivolous and Moriarity was ordered to reimburse those defendants more than $185,000 in legal fees and costs. Moriarity is currently appealing that order to the Arizona Supreme Court.
After Aubuchon’s disbarment, the Arizona State Bar pursued disciplinary action against Moriarity, alleging that the claims he filed against the Phoenix law firm lacked any factual or legal basis as well as other violations of the rules of professional conduct. Rather than fight the disciplinary charges, Moriarity consented to disbarment in Arizona and notified the state bars and federal courts in Wyoming, Montana and Utah of his Arizona disbarment.
Faced with reciprocal discipline in Wyoming, Montana and Utah, Moriarity reconsidered his decision to consent to disbarment in Arizona and attempted to withdraw his consent to disbarment in that state. In Wyoming, the federal court declined to immediately impose reciprocal discipline, pending action by the Wyoming State Bar. The federal court in Montana also declined to impose reciprocal discipline. The federal judge in Montana issued a lengthy order discussing cases in which Arizona lawyers received less severe discipline for misconduct similar to that with which Moriarity was charged and concluded that there were substantial reasons not to disbar him. As in Wyoming, the Montana federal court decided to withhold discipline until the Montana Supreme Court determines what disciplinary action, if any, it will take. Moriarity’s attempt to withdraw his consent to disbarment in Arizona was denied by the Arizona Presiding Disciplinary Judge, and an appeal of that denial is pending in the Arizona Supreme Court.
In Wyoming, upon notification that a member of the Wyoming State Bar has been disciplined in another jurisdiction, Bar Counsel is required to investigate the matter and make a recommendation to the Board of Professional Responsibility as to appropriate discipline. In Moriarity’s case, Bar Counsel conducted a thorough review of the Arizona disciplinary proceedings and concluded that disbarment was not warranted. Rather, consistent with prior Wyoming precedent in which a lawyer was found to have filed a lawsuit lacking factual or legal basis, a public censure was appropriate.
Upon review of Bar Counsel’s recommendation for a public censure and noting no objection from Moriarity, the Board of Professional Responsibility forwarded the recommendation to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The Wyoming Supreme Court today issued a public censure of Moriarity for violation of Rule 3.1 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 3.1 prohibits a lawyer from bringing a lawsuit unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so. Moriarity was ordered to pay an administrative fee of $500 and costs of $50 to the Wyoming State Bar.
Click here to see the Order of Public Censure.