The Nevada Supreme Court has voted to suspend two prominent lawyers for criminal violations.
They voted 6-1 to accept a deal that will allow former U.S. Attorney for Nevada, Larry Semenza, to return to practicing law about the time he gets out of prison.
Semenza was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in January for failing to file tax returns totaling $655,000 in personal income and $345,000 in corporate income between 2006 and 2010. He was also ordered to pay $290,000 in restitution to the IRS.
Under the conditional plea agreement, Semenza was barred from practicing law for one year. That year started March 27, when he was temporarily suspended, and will, therefore, expire on that date in 2016. At that point, Semenza will have served 14 months of his sentence and be due for release not long afterward.
Semenza received the deal because of the absence of any prior discipline issues and his cooperative attitude as well as his solid reputation. The majority ruled the purpose of attorney discipline is to protect the public, courts and legal profession, “not to punish the attorney.”
In addition, the high court suspended longtime Reno lawyer Bill O’Mara after a bar investigation found he had added his wife Maureen to the will of a client who died. According to the order suspending him for a year, he made misrepresentations including the woman Maureen Lister was not his wife in a letter to the State Bar.
As with Semenza, the court pointed to O’Mara’s lack of prior discipline problems, his character and reputation. But the court doubled the Bar panel’s six-month suspension to one year. Justice Nancy Saitta dissented in both cases saying one year was not enough of a suspension.
On the other end of the scale, Justices Jim Hardesty and Mark Gibbons said they would have upheld the six-month suspension in O’Mara’s case.