NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana lawyer who worked in exchange for marijuana has been suspended from practice for a year. The state's Supreme Court rejected a disciplinary board's recommendation to let attorney James Mecca keep working.
Mecca pleaded guilty in 2014 to a misdemeanor first-offence charge of possessing marijuana in 2013. His six-month jail sentence was suspended and he has served a year of probation, according to an unsigned Supreme Court opinion Friday.
The license suspension is a disciplinary matter, rather than criminal law.
The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office set up a sting after an informant reported that she'd paid Mecca earlier in marijuana, and he had offered to represent her again for the "same old, same old."
Drug officers taped a phone conversation in which the informant said she had "a whole backpack full" of "smoke." She then set up a meeting at which she gave Mecca about a half-pound of marijuana provided by the sheriff's office, according to the opinion. He was stopped for a traffic violation and arrested on charges of running a stop sign and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute it, the opinion recounted.
The arrest made news on Jan. 14, 2014, and Mecca reported the arrest the next day to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
The Louisiana State Bar's disciplinary board had recommended a "fully deferred" two-year suspension that would have let him keep working while he was on probation.
The court found that too light, ordering a one-year actual suspension.
"Considering that respondent bartered his legal services for illegal drugs, directly implicating the practice of law and causing harm to the legal profession, we will not defer any portion of the suspension," four of the seven justices said in the written opinion.
Two justices recommended lighter discipline, noting that Mecca cooperated with investigators and went through drug treatment. One said it have been more severe.