Pubdate: Tue, 4 Nov 2008
Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT)
Copyright: 2008 Times Argus
Author: Susan Smallheer, Rutland Herald
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


MONTPELIER - A Windsor lawyer who served as a part-time family court
judge will lose her license to practice law for three months and be
placed on probation for a year, according to a lawyers' decision.

The disciplinary panel from the Professional Responsibility Board said
her actions undermined the public's confidence in the Vermont legal

Martha Davis, 62, of Windsor can appeal the decision by the board
within the next 30 days, according to Beth DeBernardi, the deputy
disciplinary counsel for the Professional Responsibility Board. A
three-person hearing panel issued the recommendation on Davis on Friday.

"She acted knowingly and, though no clients were injured by her
conduct, there is injury to the public confidence in the integrity of
the legal system and in the integrity of Vermont lawyers," the
three-member panel wrote in a decision dated Friday.

"Although her marijuana use predated her medical conditions, her
continued use of marijuana was, in part, an attempt to alleviate her
physical symptoms," the panel added.

Last October, Vermont game wardens, acting on a complaint from Davis
about a dead deer on her property, instead discovered 32 small
marijuana plants and 2-1/2 pounds of marijuana at her home. Davis,
saying she suffered from migraines and polymyalgia rheumatica, has
maintained that the marijuana was for her use only.

Davis, who at the time of her arrest was a part-time judge in the
family court in White River Junction, could be subject to random drug
tests, according to 12-page decision. Davis was dropped as a part-time
judge by the court administrator's office shortly after the case
became public.

The panel noted there were mitigating and aggravating factors in the
case, with the mitigating factor her illness and the aggravating
factor that she had practiced law in Vermont for 30 years.

The Davis case also threw Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand
into a very public feud with Gov. James Douglas, who for a while
ordered that state police bypass any felony marijuana cases directly
to the attorney general's office. Sand had only charged Davis with
possession of 2 ounces of marijuana and sent Davis' case to court
diversion, and Davis was never formally arraigned on any criminal charges.

According to the decision, Davis completed court diversion earlier
this year and sought alcohol and drug counseling.

Sand pointed to the fact that most first-time offenders on marijuana
possession go to court diversion, plus he noted Davis' clean criminal

Douglas later rescinded his recommendation after a similar case
surfaced in neighboring Orange County, where someone with 110 plants
was also sent to court diversion. Douglas had supported court
diversion in that case.

Davis has practiced law for 30 years and is the former town moderator.
She suffers from migraine headaches and an inflammatory condition
which puts her in a lot of pain, according to documents in the case.
According to earlier documents, Davis used the marijuana to ease her

However, the panel noted that Davis' pot use predated her physical

DeBernardi said the recommendation now goes to the Vermont Supreme
Court, which has the final say on Davis' punishment. It can reject the
decision and impose its own disciplinary action.

The panel in fact increased Davis' suspension by one month from what
was recommended by the disciplinary panel earlier this year.

Lisa Chalidze of Benson, Davis' attorney, didn't return calls or
emails asking for comment.

The decision was signed by panel members Lon McClintock, a Bennington
lawyer, and Kristina Pollard, a lawyer and Dr. Robert Bergman, a

The panel states that during probation Davis must work with a drug and
alcohol counselor to discuss relapse prevention strategies, and learn
about the long-term physical and psychological effects of marijuana
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