The Arkansas Supreme Court today denied Harold Madden readmission to the bar. Madden, who began practice in 1973, surrendered his law license in 2000 after he plea bargained to a federal charge of misprision of a felony. Specifically, he admitted he hadn't reported in 1996 that a former client of his had sold an ounce of cocaine to his legal secretary. Neither was ever convicted of the underlying crime. Madden, who admitted to a pattern of alcohol and drug abuse at the time, said he plea bargained while under FBI investigation for fear he might face more serious charges.
From there, Madden went into rehab, became sober, regularly attended AA, got his real estate broker's license and began working as investigator for the state public defender's office. After applying for readmission to the bar in 2010, Madden produced a string of character witnesses to his fitness before the state legal regulatory agency. He argued that his mental state at the time of the crime introduced an element of negligence or recklessness into the offense.
The Supreme Court said, however, that the rules were clear. Madden was convicted of a "serious crime" and it was not one for which he could argue a "culpable mental state" was negligence or recklessness. It said his concealment of a crime was knowing. The rule is so clear it even prohibited Madden from applying for readmittance, the Court held in a 5-2 ruling.
Justices Donald Corbin joined a dissent written by Paul Danielson.
While I am cognizant that Madden pled guilty to an offense to which the culpable mental state was not that of negligence or recklessness, I am simply unable to reconcile the outcome of this case with those in which we have permitted others to continue in the practice of law, where their actions more profoundly impacted both the public and the integrity of the profession. The ultimate issue in this case is the practice of law, of which we are charged with the regulation. Because I believe Mr. Madden demonstrated that he is deserving of readmission and and I believe that the public trust and integrity of the profession would both be served by his fundamentally unfair to deny the instant petition.
In a footnote, Danielson added that it was time for the court to re-examine its rules concerning sanctions, disbarments and readmissions "in an effort to address the disparity of treatment that often occurs from case to case."