Government Seeks to Disqualify Lawyers for Doctor in Steroid Case
by Millard Baker
The federal government is unhappy with Dr. Jesse Haggard’s selection of defense counsel in the Applied Pharmacy steroid case. The United States Attorney Office filed a motion with the court to disqualify David York and Chris Coumanis of Coumanis & York based on an alleged potential conflict of interest.
David York brings considerable trial experience to the legal defense of Dr. Jesse Haggard. York was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama for five years; he returned to private practice in 2006.
York was also the former boss for Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Dobbins, the government’s lead attorney in the Applied Pharmacy Services case. The government argues that the unhappiness with Haggard’s legal team is not the consequence of a personal political rivalry but an issue of ethics.
The government claims that David York, as the former U.S. Attorney, represented the United States at the inception of the Applied Pharmacy investigation and received regular updates on the steroid investigation from Assistant U.S. Attorney Dobbins before going into private practice in 2006. The government wants York disqualified based on potential conflict of interest.
In addition, the government also seeks to remove Chris Coumanis from Haggard’s legal counsel. Since Coumanis was a member of the law firm Briskman & Binion that represented co-defendant Dr. Pamela Pyle in the Applied Pharmacy case, the government seeks disqualification based on the potential conflict of interest; Coumanis maintains he avoided contact with the Pyle case. The government anticipates that Dr. Pyle could be called as a witness for the prosecution.
The government does not feel that the Sixth Amendment, federal law and state law protect Dr. Haggard’s choice of counsel:
While the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to counsel, that right does not allow a defendant to insist on a counsel who has a prior ongoing relationship with an apposing (sic) party, even where the opposing party is the Government.
Section 207 (a)(1) of Title 18 bars former Government officials from appearing before a court in regard to a matter in which the United States is a party if the matter involves a “specific party or parties” and if the former official participated in the matter “personally and substantially.”
Rule 1.9 of those Rules bars a lawyer who formerly represented a client in a matter from thereafter representing another person in the same or substantially related matter where the interests of the parties are materially adverse.
The filing for the government’s motion to disqualify counsel for Dr. Jesse Haggard comes on the same day that Chief United States District Judge affirmed the continued detention of Haggard pending trial:
The court agrees with the Magistrate Judge’s assessment during the detention hearing that the evidence requires that the defendant be detained pending trial because there is a serious risk that the defendant will flee. He has spent the last year and a half living outside this country, knowing that he was under investigation and, later, under indictment. Although he came to the decision to return to this country and made arrangements to turn himself in, the evidence is clear that he could just as easily reverse that decision and again absent himself from the court.
Jesse Haggard pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.