Lawyer Disbarred After Appearing Intoxicated at Disciplinary Hearing
Former Kansas attorney, Justin Holstin, was disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court on March 20 after voluntarily surrendering his license. A court order stated, “At the time the respondent surrendered his license, four disciplinary complaints were pending, alleging that the respondent violated the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct.” Holstin was asked to take blood alcohol tests during his disciplinary hearing after it was reported he smelled like alcohol. The test results showed he was intoxicated.
Holstin agreed to the test on February 8th when panel members at the disciplinary hearing became concerned that he might be under the influence of alcohol despite Holstin insisting he had not consumed alcohol since during the Super Bowl, four days prior. According to the order, “The hearing panel recessed the hearing, made arrangements for alcohol testing, and requested the respondent submit to testing to determine the presence of the alcohol. The respondent agreed to submit to the testing. A representative from the Kansas Lawyers Assistance Program along with a representative from the Disciplinary Administrator’s office transported the respondent to a facility for the alcohol testing.”
Holstin took the test first at 11:17 a.m. and again 16 minutes later to validate the results. The first test found a blood alcohol level of .185, and the second indicated a level of .200.
After the hearing, deputy disciplinary administrator Kimberly Knoll sought a temporary suspension in oral arguments before the state high court. Knoll called the events those that had “never been presented in the history of our office.”
During the Kansas Supreme Court arguments, Holstin said he wasn’t refuting the positive test results. “It was a lack of judgment on my part,” he said. “The last few years have been rather difficult.”
Holstin stated further that the alcohol in his system during the disciplinary hearing was from drinking the night before. This was a different story than he had initially told. He also acknowledged he had told the panel his last drink had been during the Super Bowl, well before the scheduled hearing. He also admitted to driving himself to the court despite being intoxicated.
Holstin had also tested positive for morphine on February 15th. In response to this, he said he ate poppy seeds while alone on Valentine’s Day which resulted in a positive test.
In rebuttal, Deputy Administrator Knoll noted that she had Googled the poppy seed explanation and that it was reported to her that he smelled of alcohol at this proceeding. She refused to believe the attorney’s stories involving his substance use.
Holstin indicated that he had waited to take the bar exam until a decade after graduating from law school, because his son was diagnosed with cancer. He had no health insurance and no job, so he decided to take the bar and start practicing law to earn the income needed for treatment. He realized he would be disbarred for being under the influence at the hearing.
Holstin indicated that he was currently scaling back at his law practice and was looking for new job opportunities. He will continue to pursue opportunities in other areas after being disbarred. He also said he was treating his drinking through “abstinence.”