On Wednesday, May 8, 2024, the State of Michigan Attorney Discipline Board issued an order reducing the suspension of attorney Stephanie A. Carson from 180 days to 60 days for violating professional conduct rules.

The case is entitled “Attorney Grievance Commission v. Stephanie A. Carson,” with case no. 22-24-GA.

The case stems from an incident in July 2019 where Carson met with and spoke to her former client Paris Smith without the knowledge or consent of his attorneys. At the time, Smith was pursuing a criminal appeal and malpractice lawsuit against Carson related to her representation of him in a 2015 murder trial.

Smith’s new appellate attorney, Katherine Marcuz, had scheduled an evidentiary hearing on the appeal to examine whether Carson provided ineffective counsel by failing to consult an expert witness. Carson was subpoenaed to testify at the hearing. In conversations with Marcuz before the hearing, Carson indicated her testimony could be damaging to Smith’s case.

On the morning of the scheduled hearing, Carson entered the lockup area of the courtroom and spoke to Smith, who was in custody. According to the Board opinion, Carson expressed concerns to Smith that the malpractice lawsuit was coming after her livelihood and career. She did not inform Marcuz of this contact later.

The Attorney Grievance Commission filed a complaint against Carson, alleging her unconsented conversation with Smith violated Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct. A hearing panel suspended Carson’s law license for 180 days, finding she engaged in improper communication knowingly to protect her own interests.

Carson appealed the discipline. In its order and accompanying opinion, the Attorney Discipline Board modified the suspension. While agreeing misconduct occurred, the Board found mitigating factors like Carson’s admissions and cooperation, as well as the delay between the incident and disciplinary proceedings. Considering Carson’s prior record, the Board believed progressive discipline called for a decreased 60-day suspension rather than 180 days.

The Board’s opinion highlighted the importance of Rule 4.2 in protecting represented individuals and maintaining the integrity of the attorney-client relationship. One member dissented and argued Carson’s history warranted a longer 120-day suspension.

The Disposition states:

“IT IS ORDERED that discipline in this case is reduced from 180-day suspension of respondent’s license to practice law in Michigan to a 60-DAY SUSPENSION, EFFECTIVE JUNE 6, 2024, and until further order of the Supreme Court, the Attorney Discipline Board or a hearing panel, and until respondent complies with the requirements of MCR 9.123(A).”

According to avvo.com, Ms. Carson is a criminal defense attorney in Southfield, Michigan. She acquired her law license in Michigan in 1997. 

A copy of the original filing can be found here.