Monday, May 21, 2007

Ex-Jerome County commissioner disciplined for ethics violations

By Jared S. Hopkins
Times-News writer
EDEN - Attorney and former Jerome County Commissioner John D. Elorrieta has been put on two years of probation by the Idaho Supreme Court after violating at least four parts of the state bar association's rules of professional conduct in a case involving his mother and stepfather.

Another violation would result in a six-month suspension for Elorrieta, now the deputy prosecutor in Lincoln County.

The decision ends one legal battle for Elorietta, an attorney, as another could be getting under way. Elorrieta was recently asked by the Jerome County commissioners to return $16,200 of the nearly $70,000 in overtime pay that he and his colleagues received illegally for four years beginning in 2001.

Elorrieta could not be reached for comment Friday and repeated phone messages were not returned.

This matter arose in 2002 after Elorrieta agreed to represent his stepfather, Tom Webb, in a divorce claim against his biological mother, Glenda Elorrieta.

Shortly after the two were married, a depressed Webb tried to kill himself and underwent extensive medical care. The couple decided to divorce but live together to curb rising medical costs.

In 2004, Webb filed a malpractice action against Elorrieta. In October, the Idaho State Bar filed a charge alleging professional misconduct in summer 2002.

The charges included:

Not consulting with Webb before filing the divorce papers, not explaining matters for Webb to make informed decisions and not keeping Webb up to date during the divorce.

He had a conflict of interest representing Webb against his own mother, that she received nearly all the couple's assets and for disregarding the condition that Webb was in.

During the investigation, Elorrieta acknowledged that he never should have represented his stepfather against his mother.

According to Elorrieta's testimony, he explained the conflict of interest to Webb and his mother, but they insisted he take the case.

He also said that he assumed Webb could make accurate decisions because he overheard Webb's doctors in March 2002 that he was capable of making decisions.

Elorrieta was admitted to practice law in Idaho in 1995 and has no prior disciplinary history.

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