DES MOINES, Iowa — In a three-pronged approach to ensure attorney standards are met, the Attorney Disciplinary Board, Grievance Commission and Iowa State Supreme Court investigate complaints when certain lawyers may not meet expectations.
“Those range from breaking the rules of attorney conduct as stated in Iowa court rules, to fraud, to deceit, to criminal conduct,” said Steve Davis, communications director of the Iowa Judicial Branch.
The borderline is not exactly known, but a Clarke County District Attorney may be toeing the line less than two months after being arrested for public intoxication in a Clarke County court room. Last Friday, Michelle Rivera was behind bars again. “Criminal acts are one of the criteria of unethical behavior. It’s one trigger that will start an investigation by the disciplinary board,” said Davis.
A Clarke County criminal complaint report says dispatch received a phone complaint 8 a.m. last Friday about an erratic driver who nearly struck them and ran a stop sign. Using the vehicle description, a sheriff`s deputy located Rivera’s vehicle parked in the county courthouse parking lot. The officer spoke to Rivera about the complaint and she admitted to drinking the night before. The report stated she was concerned the alcohol may be still in her system.
Rivera performed a field sobriety test and the report says she showed clues of intoxication. The officer claimed they could smell the odor of an intoxicating beverage on her breath, but she refused to provide a breath sample. She was then booked into the Clarke County Jail where she refused another breath test.
Rivera was charged with operating while under the influence, her first offense, and child endangerment, since she dropped her child off at daycare prior to driving to work. If a disciplinary investigation is triggered, multiple or reoccurring offenses are considered. “The Iowa Supreme Court will issue an opinion and list reasons for disciplinary action. Often times they’ll say this is the second time, or a third time and that may be a reason why the disciplinary action is more severe,” Davis said.
The Disciplinary Board and Grievance Commission will not publicly discuss if an attorney is under a pending disciplinary matter. Rivera is currently listed in good standing with an active license status. Davis said, “It doesn’t become public until they make a recommendation to the Iowa Supreme Court.”
Rivera has a preliminary hearing Thursday, Dec. 20 at 1:30 p.m. inside the Clarke County courthouse. Rivera, who lost her re-election bid in November to Republican Adam Ramsey, was unavailable for comment.