Updated November 11, 2019 - 11:15 am
Las Vegas attorney Alexis Plunkett, serving probation for allowing clients to use cellphones in jail, has been disbarred from practicing law in Nevada.
“Her misconduct injured the profession and the legal system, especially when taking into consideration her position as a criminal defense attorney and the nature of her misconduct, but more importantly, she caused great injury to her clients,” Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Gibbons wrote in the seven-justice unanimous opinion. “The seriousness of this injury cannot be overstated.”
The 38-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of possession of a telecommunication device by a prisoner, and was ordered to serve three years probation. While she told prosecutors and a judge in May that she never wanted to practice law in Nevada again, Plunkett’s sentiment shifted while she awaited the decision from the high court, which was handed down Friday.
“This is the only career I’ve known, and I am absolutely devastated,” Plunkett wrote in an email to the Review-Journal. “I lived my life and I practiced law trying to help people, and my mistaken help has cost me my career and livelihood.”
Plunkett’s lawyer in her appeal, Bret Whipple, said Monday that he was “very disappointed” in the decision.
“I know that she’s put her life, her career into it, and wanted to redeem herself,” he said.
Plunkett had returned to Ohio, where she was raised, to serve out her probation. She told the newspaper that she was working remotely for a Nevada attorney she declined to name.
Her felony conviction stemmed from jail visits Plunkett made to former client Rogelio Estrada and her then-boyfriend Andrew Arevalo, who in 2014 was shot and wounded by a High Desert State Prison guard.
Plunkett represented Arevalo in his lawsuit against the Nevada Department of Corrections in connection with the shooting, which left another man dead. A former prison guard charged in the shooting struck a deal with prosecutors last month, and was ordered to undergo mental health treatment and perform community service.
District Judge Michael Villani initially dismissed a 14-count indictment against Plunkett, but the Nevada Supreme Court later reversed that decision.
Plunkett has said she was in a relationship with Arevalo, who also was indicted, and that they used the cellphone to make calls regarding bail, which she believed they were authorized to do.
Greg Coyer, one of Plunkett’s longtime friends, and a former Las Vegas attorney, said in a recent interview that he had discussed her future and “getting her reputation redeemed.”
‘She poked the bear’
“It’s one thing to lose your profession,” he said. “It’s a whole other thing to be portrayed the way she was portrayed… There’s no question in my mind that after the shooting and the lawsuits, she was definitely targeted by the Department of Corrections and Metro’s intelligence bureau. But that’s part of what got her in this spot. She’s never been afraid to confront the powers that be. She poked the bear, you know, and she paid a high price for it.”
Prosecutors ultimately dropped separate charges of bribing or intimidating a witness, a felony, and dissuading or preventing a person from testifying, a gross misdemeanor, against Plunkett as part of her plea agreement.
“I have nothing but remorse for dragging two clients, my own boyfriend and a homeless pro bono client, into this mess, and I’m sorry the Supreme Court felt I would do anything to purposefully harm my clients,” Plunkett wrote. “My entire life is ruined over a genuine mistake. I do not wish upon anyone what I have been through.”
The Nevada State Bar had proposed a suspension of five years and a day for Plunkett. But the high court rejected that recommendation, and found that she did not show remorse as she sought to retain her law license.
“We conclude that disbarment is appropriate to serve the purpose of attorney discipline to protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession,” the justices wrote.