Linda Satter of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette broke news today of a deal reached with the Arkansas lawyers’ disciplinary body earlier this month for a 42-month suspension of the law license of North Little Rock lawyer, Stephen Morley, a former North Little Rock traffic judge.
Morley agreed to the suspension in resolving a Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct complaint over his legal work for the Royal Liquor Store in Dermott. That work aided a series of transactions, including a sham sale, viewed by the state Department of Finance and Administration as a scheme to avoid $200,000 worth of tax penalties.
You can read the full report on the Morley case here. He did not agree to all allegations in the complaint initiated by DFA. (The order indicates the suspension was for 42 months, not four years as the D-G article states. He was also fined $500.)
Why is Morley no longer a traffic judge? He resigned from the bench in 1997 in the face of 26 disciplinary charges, including adultery, drug use and filing a false insurance claim, as detailed in this 2010 account in the Seattle Times.
And why did the Seattle Times write about a former North Little Rock traffic judge?
That was because of his 2009 work for a criminal law client, Maurice Clemmons, formerly of Little Rock. The article describes (with many direct quotes apparently from jailhouse recordings) how Morley talked to Clemmons about using influence with state officials (in return for a $20,000 legal fee from Clemmons) to get an Arkansas hold on parolee Clemmons lifted so he could be released from custody in Washington. For whatever reason, the hold was lifted and Clemmons made bond. Arkansas would later issue a new warrant for Clemmons. It wasn’t served. Washington contended the warrant wasn’t valid. Arkansas contended it was. The debate had significance because, while free, Clemmons killed four police officers in Washington state. He was killed by police in the manhunt that followed. Clemmons was freed from Arkansas prison in the first place in 2000 thanks to clemency from Gov. Mike Huckabee despite a poor prison conduct record. That matter became an issue in Huckabee’s first unsuccessful run for president in 2008.
In the current lawyer disciplinary action, Morley, who succeeded his late father in a busy practice in alcohol regulation, was accused of multiple rules violations, including dishonest conduct, not providing competent counsel, conflict of interest among multiple clients and actions “prejudicial to the administration of justice.” He did not contest charges that a sale of the liquor store was a sham and that he made false representations to DFA.