Iowa attorney can have his license suspended for year-and-a-half after testing positive on drugs five times in just more than a year

After five drug offenses in a little more than a year, an Iowa attorney’s legal license might be suspended for 18 months.

Wesley Alan Johnson, admitted to the Iowa bar in 2008, has largely practiced family law, juvenile law, criminal law, and guardianships and conservatorships in Boone County.

Johnson pled guilty to charges of first-offense drunk driving and possession of methamphetamine following an automobile collision in Boone County in January 2020.

Six months later, Johnson was arrested in Polk County following a traffic stop. He was charged with driving under the influence and possession of prohibited narcotics, including LSD, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Later, he pled guilty to driving under the influence and possession of LSD. Due to the pending nature of the Boone County case, both the Boone County and Polk County DUI convictions were considered as first offenses.

In September 2020, one month after his arrest in Polk County, Johnson was stopped in Dallas County and charged with possession of methamphetamine. He subsequently pled guilty to the crime.

In February 2021, following a traffic encounter in Jasper County, Johnson was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license and possession of methamphetamine, charges to which he eventually pled guilty.

Four days later, he was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license and illegal possession of oxycodone in Polk County. Later, he entered a guilty plea to the possession allegation.

Due to a handicap or incapacity, the Iowa Supreme Court temporarily suspended Johnson’s license to practice law in May 2021. Johnson agreed to the suspension for disability, but the arrests also prompted disciplinary proceedings.

The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board filed a formal complaint against Johnson in February of this year, citing professional misconduct related to his repeated criminal offenses and usage of controlled narcotics.

The Grievance Commission of the Iowa Supreme Court then ordered a hearing to be convened in May, but Johnson and the board signed a joint stipulation agreeing to the main facts of the matter, so there was no hearing.

In its recent written disciplinary recommendation to the Iowa Supreme Court, the panel stated that it evaluated Johnson’s comments to a judge following one of his arrests, in which he reportedly declared, “I realize I have a substance problem. I was an attorney for more than 12 years before I began using methamphetamine. I lost everything inside a year.

The committee noted that following Johnson’s admission, he underwent inpatient treatment as a condition of his probation, but left the program against medical recommendation and in breach of his probation after only two weeks. This led to the cancellation of deferred decisions in two of his criminal cases, and he was held in contempt of court. He ultimately finished inpatient treatment and was released from probation at the beginning of 2022.

In recommending disciplinary action to the court, the commission stated that its members “found it somewhat shocking that Johnson managed to accumulate narcotics arrests for five distinct occurrences in Boone, Polk, Dallas, and Jasper Counties in less than a year.” And those are merely the occasions he was captured by chance.”

The commission stated that it was “hopeful that Johnson has finally gotten a wake-up call, but we are also cognizant of the fact that Johnson’s four prior drug charges evidently failed to send the message.”

The commission decided to propose a disciplinary suspension of at least 18 months for Johnson’s law license, with the punishment commencing only once his disability suspension is lifted.

In addition, the panel suggested that prior to reinstatement, Johnson would be forced to show medical paperwork demonstrating that he “remains drug-free and is fit to return to the practice of law.”

The Attorney Disciplinary Board agrees with the majority of the commission’s recommendations to the court, but argues in support of Johnson’s disciplinary suspension running concurrently with his disability suspension, which would expedite Johnson’s ability to resume practicing law.

The court has not yet rendered a verdict in the case.

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