A Billings attorney has been charged with professional misconduct for making threatening remarks to another attorney.
The state Office of Disciplinary Counsel leveled the charge against Jeffrey Michael for telling fellow attorney Liz Honaker that he was going to "wipe her out."
Michael, who declined to comment Wednesday, has 20 days to file a written response to the complaint, which was filed Nov. 7.
After a formal hearing is held on the matter, the adjudicatory panel of the state Commission on Practice will make a report of its findings and recommendations to the Montana Supreme Court. The court will ultimately decide what disciplinary action, if any, to take.
According to the complaint, Michael represented Lionel Ellison in a case that resulted in Ellison's conviction on an arson charge. In a petition for post-conviction relief filed on Ellison's behalf, Honaker said Michael had provided ineffective assistance to Ellison.
In October 2011, the complaint continued, Michael and Honaker "had an encounter" in Billings Municipal Court. The complaint said Michael "raised his voice and berated Honaker indicating that Ellison's claims were costing him time and money, that he was tired of it, that he may pursue his own claims against Ellison, and that Honaker had 'better watch her back.'"
Ellison subsequently filed a complaint against Michael with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. In response, Michael called Honaker and left her a voicemail message on Jan. 6, 2012.
In that voicemail, the complaint said, Michael told Honaker that he received Ellison's complaint, "that he was coming to 'get' her, and that she should be prepared because he was going to 'wipe her out.'"
The complaint said Michael's "language and tone of voice on the voicemail are threatening, rude, and intimidating," and that Honaker felt threatened by the remarks. It said Honaker reported the incident to the Billings Police Department but did not request the filing of formal charges.
Michael admitted to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel that he left the voicemail on Honaker's phone, saying "he was upset that Ellison had filed his complaint with ODC and was convinced that Honaker assisted Ellison with submitting that complaint."