Cuffed lawyer, cuffed client appear together in court

A Fresno lawyer who recently appeared in court in handcuffs while representing his similarly handcuffed client, was placed on interim suspension by the State Bar on May 1. FRANK ANDREW DORNAY [#91326], 45, was suspended following his criminal conviction for being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of cocaine and methamphetamine.

Dornay, who has been a member of the bar since 1980, wore handcuffs in the Fresno courtroom in February while defending a client facing a drug charge. Dornay was cuffed after missing an appointment with a probation official for drug tests two days earlier. Superior Court Judge Stephen Kane asked Dornay's client if he wanted another lawyer, in light of Dornay's custodial status, but the client declined.

Later, Dornay admitted to another judge that he missed his drug test appointment, but his own defense lawyer said it was just a misunderstanding.

The judge reinstated probation and released Dornay, but warned him that another violation could put him behind bars.

Dornay has a lengthy record of discipline by the State Bar.

In 1989, he was placed on probation for two years after he was convicted of assaulting a security guard at a video parlor in 1982. An aggravating circumstance in that matter was his 1983 conviction of driving under the influence.

In 1990, he was arrested for throwing firecrackers at a vehicle and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor violation of the vehicle code. Those charges did not result in a conviction referral.

Prior to the current interim suspension order, he received a one-year stayed suspension and two years probation with 30 days actual suspension when he failed to comply with conditions of a 1991 disciplinary order.

The 1991 discipline order stemmed from his March 1987 misdemeanor conviction for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. The same jury acquitted Dornay of shooting at two people after a night of drinking and a fight with a bouncer at a Fresno steak house and bar.

Aggravating circumstances included his subsequent arrest for possession of a firearm in violation of the terms of his criminal probation. He served nine months in jail.

In his discipline recommendation regarding the bar probation violation matter, the bar court hearing judge wrote that Dornay said his failure to comply was not wilful. "He described a tale of woe which has its alleged genesis in the former disciplinary proceeding," wrote the judge.

Dornay testified that he was suspended for 18 months in 1991, but didn't get his license back for two-and-a-half years. As a result, he was more than $60,000 in debt and had to teach flying and skydiving on weekends to pay off his bills.

His weekend work, however, led to a herniated disc, which also affected his legal career. In addition, Dornay said he did not have medical insurance to pay for the surgery, and two recent surgeries on his knees further complicated his life and work.

In reviewing the 1991 probation non-compliance matter, the hearing judge wrote that disbarment "would be contrary to the purposes of attorney discipline" and "disproportionate" to Dornay's misconduct.

The judge said that the "age and substance" of Dornay's priors were relevant to the discussion of discipline and that his misconduct did not involve the practice of law, but is "indicative of a behavior problem possibly having its roots in chemical abuse."

The judge noted that Dornay has shown a willingness to attend substance abuse programs and that probation "is adequate to protect the public against his misconduct."