No. 30 DB 94 - Disciplinary Board. Attorney Registration No. 18433 (Philadelphia).
Mr. Chief Justice Flaherty. Mr. Justice Castille did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Flaherty
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FLAHERTY
The issue in this disciplinary case is whether Respondent Renfroe should be disbarred, and if so, whether the sanction of disbarment should be retroactive.
On June 12, 1986 Renfroe was convicted by a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware of bribery of a witness, former 18 U.S.C. § 291(d) and obstructing the administration of Justice, 18 U.S.C. § 1503. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five years followed by three years probation and the requirement of drug testing and remaining free of drugs. This Court placed him on temporary suspension by order of August 28, 1986. On appeal, Renfroe argued, inter alia, that he had not been competent to be tried and sentenced because of his drug addiction. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court to determine whether a retrospective determination of competency were possible.
The district court found that the government had not met its burden of proof that Renfroe was competent at the time of trial and sentencing to consult with his counsel, and reversed the conviction. 745 F. Supp. 203 (D.Del. 1990).
This court then reinstated Renfroe, as was required by former Pa.R.D.E. 214(h), which required that a temporarily suspended attorney shall be reinstated immediately upon the filing of a certificate that the underlying conviction has been reversed.
Renfroe was then retried in federal court on the same charges. On April 17, 1992, a jury convicted Renfroe of bribery of a witness and acquitted him of obstructing the administration of Justice. On November 22, 1993, he was sentenced to a suspended sentence of five years imprisonment.
On February 23, 1994, this court again placed Renfroe on temporary suspension. Petitions requesting reconsideration or modification of the suspension order were filed and denied, and this court directed that the proceedings be expedited. On March 30, 1994 the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a petition for discipline. Prehearing conferences were held on April 21 and June 1, 1994, and hearings were conducted on November 3 and 18, 1994, and February 9 and April 25, 1995.
Evidence at the disciplinary hearings established that Renfroe used illegal drugs from the time he was in college until 1988. This included a period of time when he was employed by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and later, when he was in private practice. At times, his drug use was such that he was unable to function, and at times, because of his cocaine addiction, his mind was disordered by paranoid thoughts and belief that he was in control when he was not. One expert testified that Renfroe's long term and "severe" drug addiction caused his professional misconduct and criminal behavior. When Renfroe was released from custody in 1988, he used cocaine once and marijuana an unstated number of times. He then entered an in-patient drug rehabilitation program in Florida and claims to have been drug-free since then. Numerous witnesses testified as to Renfroe's recovery efforts, and stated that he has changed. The majority of the board found that Renfroe believes that his illegal conduct was absolutely wrong and regrets doing it. Finding 44. The hearing board, however, found that "Respondent Renfroe does not show remorse." Finding 31.
The hearing committee filed its report and recommendation on December 27, 1995, unanimously recommending disbarment and permission to apply for reinstatement at a time which takes into account his period of suspension. The committee found that Renfroe's criminal conduct was caused in substantial part, but not entirely, by his drug addiction and mental disorder. The committee noted that Renfroe had been temporarily suspended for more than six years.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a brief on exceptions to the board, arguing that neither the law nor the facts warranted mitigating disbarment ...