69°F
weather icon Clear

State Bar grievance means Noel Gage may not be out of the woods yet

Just because a federal judge dismissed criminal charges against Las Vegas attorney Noel Gage doesn’t mean his senior years are guaranteed to be golden. The dismissal doesn’t mean Gage has been vindicated. Or even that the charges will remain dismissed.

Plus, the 70-year-old attorney faces another legal challenge. The State Bar of Nevada filed a grievance in March against Gage during his fraud and conspiracy trial, and that could affect his ability to practice law, depending on the outcome.

“The investigation is continuing,” said Assistant Bar Counsel Phillip Pattee. “It will be presented, hopefully in the near future, to a Southern Nevada disciplinary screening panel.”

The state bar has a rule that attorneys cannot split fees with nonlawyers. During the trial, there was testimony and evidence of payments Gage made to medical consultant Howard Awand after he started referring personal injury cases to Gage.

A disciplinary screening panel will decide whether to recommend dismissing or pursuing the grievance. If the bar files a formal complaint, a hearing is held. Any serious disciplinary action, such as a public reprimand, suspension or disbarment, goes to the Nevada Supreme Court for a final decision.

The state bar appeared to be waiting to see how the criminal case was resolved. If Gage was convicted and sentenced, he wouldn’t be practicing law and there wouldn’t be much of a need to seek disciplinary action.

“The State Bar won’t do anything,” one Las Vegas attorney said with disgust.

The bar has the reputation for not aggressively disciplining attorneys, similar to the reputation the Board of Medical Examiners has when it comes to disciplining doctors.

But Pattee said the bar hasn’t been sitting on its thumbs.

He said of the 9,528 lawyers in Nevada, 403 are on suspension (which seems like a pretty high number). There are 81 open grievance files, including Gage’s. In 2007, three lawyers were disbarred, four were suspended and six were publicly reprimanded.

Meanwhile, if the U.S. attorney’s office decides to appeal U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush’s dismissal of the indictment, that process could take several years to resolve.

Quackenbush tossed the case out. He said prosecutors hadn’t been fair to Gage, because they refused to grant Dr. Mark Kabins immunity so he could testify on Gage’s behalf and rebut the testimony of his former partner, Dr. John Thalgott.

Thalgott admitted he and Kabins conspired with Gage and Awand to avoid being sued for malpractice in their treatment of Melodie Simon, now a paraplegic. Thalgott was a cooperating witness for the government, and Kabins was formally notified Jan. 30 he was a grand jury target. Two weeks later, long before Gage went on trial, Kabins sought immunity. The government said no, partly because Kabins wouldn’t admit he did anything wrong.

The feds may have lost Gage, maybe permanently. But I’ll bet my cat that Kabins, an “as-yet unindicted co-conspirator” of Awand’s, will be indicted, particularly in light of his role leading to the dismissal of the charges against Gage.

Meanwhile, the government quietly charged Howard Awand and his wife Linda on misdemeanor tax charges, on April 15 no less. Obviously, the government filed the tax charges to pressure Awand to flip before his criminal fraud case set for Oct. 14 before Quackenbush.

The Awands, who now run a bed and breakfast in Indiana, are scheduled to go to trial July 15 before U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson on charges of failing to pay their taxes.

A guilty verdict on the tax charges might pressure Awand (or his wife) to cooperate with the federal government, because the government alleges he was “the go-between,” the middleman who found lucrative personal injury cases, referred them to local attorneys, and arranged for doctors to testify favorably. (At least one doctor says he lied to help win a case.)

Awand is the guy in the middle of everything. And for him and his wife, the next five or six months are not going to be as relaxing as running the Rosemont Inn on the banks of the Ohio River.

He can confirm that with Noel Gage, a man who still faces legal woes, despite Tuesday’s victory.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Cab riders experiencing no-shows urged to file complaints

If a cabbie doesn’t show, you must file a complaint. Otherwise, the authority will keep on insisting it’s just not a problem, according to columnist Jane Ann Morrison. And that’s not what she’s hearing.

Are no-shows by Las Vegas taxis usual or abnormal?

In May former Las Vegas planning commissioner Byron Goynes waited an hour for a Western Cab taxi that never came. Is this routine or an anomaly?

Columnist shares dad’s story of long-term cancer survival

Columnist Jane Ann Morrison shares her 88-year-old father’s story as a longtime cancer survivor to remind people that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean a hopeless end.

Las Vegas author pens a thriller, ‘Red Agenda’

If you’re looking for a good summer read, Jane Ann Morrison has a real page turner to recommend — “Red Agenda,” written by Cameron Poe, the pseudonym for Las Vegan Barry Cameron Lindemann.

Las Vegas woman fights to stop female genital mutilation

Selifa Boukari McGreevy wants to bring attention to the horrors of female genital mutilation by sharing her own experience. But it’s not easy to hear. And it won’t be easy to read.

Biases of federal court’s Judge Jones waste public funds

Nevada’s most overturned federal judge — Robert Clive Jones — was overturned yet again in one case and removed from another because of his bias against the U.S. government.

Don’t forget Jay Sarno’s contributions to Las Vegas

Steve Wynn isn’t the only casino developer who deserves credit for changing the face of Las Vegas. Jay Sarno, who opened Caesars Palace in 1966 and Circus Circus in 1968, more than earned his share of credit too.

John Momot’s death prompts memories of 1979 car fire

Las Vegas attorney John Momot Jr. was as fine a man as people said after he died April 12 at age 74. I liked and admired his legal abilities as a criminal defense attorney. But there was a mysterious moment in Momot’s past.