On Thursday, January 26, 2023, the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel for the State of Montana filed Professional misconduct charges against attorney Joseph P. Howard before the Commission on Practice of the Supreme Court of the State of Montana.

The case is entitled “In the matter of Joseph P. Howard” and was brought by the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel of the State of Montana with case no. 22-072.

The charges cited Montana Rules of Professional Conduct Rules 1.3, 1.16(a)(1), 1.16(b)(7), 3.2, and 8.4(d).

The ODC received grievances against the respondent attorney. In one of the allegations, Respondent granted a criminal defendant another opportunity to submit a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief.

The filing states:

“On August 1, 2014, Respondent filed a Notice of  Appearance and soon thereafter, on August 6, filed an Unopposed Motion to Vacate Briefing Schedule. Respondent explained he was a “solo practitioner laboring under a significant caseload” and the need to review C.W.’s extensive file before filing an amended petition.”

The Respondent failed to file an Amended Petition or any other documents for over four years. 4 years later, with a new judge, a Notice of Failure to Prosecute and stated that unless a pleading or other document is filed within sixty days of the date of this Order, this matter shall be dismissed. Fifty-nine days later, Respondent filed another Notice with the District Court where he again reiterated his busy schedule.

The filing continues:

“On October 30, 2019, the District Court granted the State’s motion and dismissed the proceeding and specifically addressed Respondent’s claim of heavy workload: “he is busy, the Court is busy. The Gallatin County Attorney’s Office is busy.”

The District Court faulted Respondent for his lack of “candor”, his failure to report back to the District Court in a timely fashion or take responsibility for the delay, and because he did not request additional time, he simply took it.”

The Montana Supreme Court determined the delays before the District Court were the fault of the Respondent. The same had responsibility over the plaintiff and to the administration of justice to diligently pursue the PCR matter.

The filing further states:

“Once Respondent discovered his workload would not afford him the time to diligently pursue C.W.’s PCR claim, and that as a result of the same, it would potentially cost C.W. the opportunity to challenge the conviction underlying his hefty prison sentence, Respondent had an obligation to withdraw.”

With all these facts and allegations, the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel prays that a citation be issued to the Respondent to which shall be attached a copy of the complaint requiring the respondent to file a written answer to the complaint within 21 days after service. Furthermore, the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel prays that a formal hearing be conducted before an Adjudicatory Panel of the Commission.

Mr. Howard attended the UDM School of Law and graduated in 2007. He practices in Great Falls, Montana. He is licensed in Montana. His info can be found on Linkedin.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.