STATE OF NEBRASKA EX REL. COUNSEL FOR DISCIPLINE OF THE NEBRASKA SUPREME COURT, RELATOR,
KRISTIN RENEE WALZ, RESPONDENT
John W. Steele and Kent L. Frobish, Assistant Counsels for Discipline, for relator.
John D. Rouse for respondent.
HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ.
[291 Neb. 567] Original action.
The issue in this attorney discipline proceeding is what discipline should be imposed on Kristin Renee Walz (Respondent) for violating certain provisions of the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct.
Respondent pled no contest and was convicted of a felony. Respondent admits that she was convicted of making terroristic threats, a Class IV felony, pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-311.01 (Reissue 2008). The referee recommended disbarment, and after our review, we conclude that disbarment is the proper sanction.
On September 3, 2010, Respondent was admitted to the practice of law in the State of Nebraska. At the time of the events set forth herein, Respondent was engaged in the private practice of law in Lancaster County, Nebraska.
Respondent was initially charged with second degree domestic assault and use of a weapon to commit a felony. She was accused of assaulting her husband with a knife. The State later amended the charges to first degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Respondent has consistently denied causing her husband's injuries and has maintained that she was asleep when the injuries occurred.
At some point, Respondent's husband admitted to police that Respondent had cut him with a knife. He later recanted and explained his statement was made while he was sleep deprived, under the influence of drugs, and under pressure by [291 Neb. 568] the police. He also stated that he made the statement to hide the fact that he had acquired drugs illegally and was under the belief that he could simply refuse to press charges. He stated that he was eating cake in bed and was under the influence of pain medication. He claimed he fell asleep, rolled over on the knife, and was injured as a result.
Pursuant to a plea agreement, Respondent pled no contest to one count of making terroristic threats. She was convicted on March 9, 2012, and was sentenced to 1 to 3 years' imprisonment with credit for 55 days served. She began her sentence July 3 and was released on parole in December. Her parole ended in July 2013.
On April 4, 2012, the Committee on Inquiry of the First Judicial District filed an application with this court for temporary suspension of Respondent's license to practice law. We entered an order suspending Respondent until further order of the court. Respondent remains under suspension pursuant to that order.
On October 31, 2012, formal charges were filed against Respondent based upon her felony conviction for making terroristic threats. The charges alleged that Respondent had violated the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct by committing a criminal act.
Respondent's answer to the formal charges denied she had violated her oath of office as an attorney or Neb. Ct. R. of Prof. Cond. § 3-508.4(a) and (b). A referee was appointed in January 2013, but due to a joint request to stay the proceedings while Respondent's criminal appeal and postconviction relief were pending, the case did not resume until 2014.
On April 30, 2014, a hearing on the formal charges was commenced. Respondent, her husband, and her treating clinical psychologist, Dr. Caryll Palmer Wilson, testified.
We granted the parties' joint motion to continue the report of the referee pending final resolution of Respondent's criminal charges and a motion to withdraw her plea. Respondent's motion to withdraw her no contest plea was subsequently [291 Neb. 569] overruled. The court also found that postconviction relief was no longer available, because Respondent was no longer in custody and there was no allegation that she was on parole.
On August 18, 2014, the referee filed a report, finding that Respondent's conviction of a felony was a violation of her oath of office as an attorney and, specifically, a violation of § 3-508.4(a) and ...