Call it liquid courage or call it a last resort, drinking alcohol before appearing at a state bar disciplinary hearing is probably a bad idea. Kansas attorney Justin Holstin didn’t get the memo. When he appeared under the influence at a bar disciplinary hearing, bar officials asked him to take an alcohol test. Those tests revealed that he was over the legal limit with a blood alcohol level of a .18 and a .20.
The Kansas State Bar didn’t find it funny, and they disbarred the lawyer. Holstin didn’t fight the suspension. At the time of the bar hearing in February 2018, Holstin faced accusations that he misused client property. Bar officials said that Holstin’s actions reflected on his fitness to practice law.
When bar officials suspected that Holstin was under the influence, they made arrangements for alcohol testing. Holstin agreed to take the test. At one point, the lawyer said that he tested positive because of drinking the night before. At another point, he tried to blame it on drinking while watching the Super Bowl. He later admitted that he exercised poor judgment.
Holstin isn’t the first attorney to show up for a hearing under the influence of alcohol. Nevada attorney Vo Joseph Caramango forced a mistrial in his client’s criminal case when he arrived at court to try the case while intoxicated. Caramango told the judge that he was in an accident on the way to court. He went on to tell the judge that the other driver ran without calling the police. He said that he had to find a friend to give him a ride to court.
When Caramango’s stories didn’t make sense, the judge asked him to take a breathalyzer test. He initially refused. Caramango finally took the test several hours after the time initially scheduled for the case. Caramango also complained of physical ailments but said he was willing to try the case hurt. The judge said that was unacceptable for Caramango’s client. The judge also questioned why Caramango chose not to call the police after the accident. The judge wondered out loud if it was because of Caramango’s intoxication.
Many states run assistance programs for lawyers who have substance abuse issues. The services often provide a referral for counseling and other treatment programs for lawyers. In some states, even suspended attorneys can take advantage of the programs. Many state programs include a helpline to speak with a person who can make a referral.