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Nebraska high court disbars depressed attorney

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Nebraska Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday disbarring an Omaha attorney who continued practicing after his law license was suspended and who blamed his transgressions on depression.

In its ruling, the court noted that William Switzer previously had been sanctioned by the court and had ignored an earlier suspension.

When challenged by the state's Counsel for Discipline, Switzer didn't deny his failures. He argued instead that his depression was a mitigating factor and that the court "should temper any discipline by suspending him, instead of disbarring him."

The court did not dispute that Switzer suffered from depression. But it agreed with a court referee who said that at some point, "'mitigation must yield to considerations of protection of the public.'"

Switzer was admitted to the Nebraska Bar in 1987. He was first reprimanded in 1994 for neglecting a case and misrepresenting its progress to the client. In 1999, the court said, Switzer was reprimanded because he failed "to withdraw his appearance in a case after the client had discharged him."

In 2005, the court said, Switzer failed to keep clients in a guardian and conservator case abreast of developments and was evasive when they called to inquire.

The Supreme Court subsequently suspended Switzer in 2008 for 18 months. But Switzer continued practicing and didn't tell clients that he'd been suspended.

In its decision to disbar Switzer, the court noted that Switzer had ignored the 2008 suspension.

"As mentioned previously, cumulative acts of misconduct justify harsher sanctions than isolated incidents," the court said.