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In re Koyste

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 27, 2015

In the Matter of a Member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of Delaware: CHRISTOPHER S. KOYSTE, ESQUIRE, Respondent

Submitted February 11, 2015

Case Closed March 17, 2015.

Charles Slanina, Esquire, Finger & Slanina, LLC, Hockessin, Delaware, for the Respondent.

Kathleen M. Vavala, Esquire, Disciplinary Counsel, Wilmington, Delaware, for the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel.

Before STRINE, Chief Justice; HOLLAND and VALIHURA, Justices.

OPINION

Page 582

PER CURIAM:

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a lawyer disciplinary proceeding. The respondent, Christopher Koyste, is a solo practitioner, who practices in the areas of criminal defense and land use. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (" ODC" ) charged Koyste in an eight-count complaint with violating Rules 3.3(a)(1), 3.4(c), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d) of the Delaware Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct (" DLRPC" ). The ODC alleged that, during the course of representing a client on felony charges involving alleged sexual abuse of the client's stepdaughter, Koyste violated the terms of a protective order (" PO" ) that had been entered in the case.

After a hearing on the alleged violations, a three-member panel of the Board on Professional Responsibility (" the Board" ) unanimously found that the ODC had proven four counts of its complaint by clear and convincing evidence. Specifically, the Board found that Koyste had committed two violations each of Rules 3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying a court order) and

Page 583

Rule 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) by knowingly causing images from the victim's cell phone to be shown to the victim's mother and to the defendant in violation of the PO. After a separate sanctions hearing, the two lawyer members of the Board recommended a public reprimand, but the lay member objected, preferring a private admonition instead.[1]

Contrary to Koyste's argument on appeal, we find that based on the evidence presented, the record supports the Board's finding that he knowingly violated the PO. His misconduct is serious and the Board's recommended sanction of a public reprimand is justified for the reasons set forth in the Board's well-reasoned report.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Stipulated Facts[2]

Koyste was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1992. In August 2012, he was appointed to represent Curtis Benn in connection with felony charges of rape in the second degree, sexual abuse of a child by a person in a position of trust, and several other related charges. The alleged victim was Benn's fifteen-year-old stepdaughter.[3]

Koyste retained John Slagowski as a private investigator to assist in Benn's defense. In October 2012, Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Faraone notified Koyste of her intent to seek a protective order from the Superior Court.[4] Koyste and Faraone negotiated the terms of the four-paragraph order through a series of email exchanges. Koyste specifically requested that the following language be removed from the proposed order:

Counsel for the defendant, his employees or agents, shall not use any identifying information secured from the materials provided by the State to contact or attempt to contact any witness or potential witness, directly or indirectly, without leave of the Court.

Faraone rejected Koyste's request, noting that the provision was the " cornerstone of a protective order." [5] Koyste eventually

Page 584

agreed to the provision; however, he requested a modification to the proposed order that would allow him to make duplicate copies of the discovery materials for his file and for his investigator. Faraone agreed to this amendment.[6] Ultimately, the Superior Court granted the State's motion and entered the ...


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