American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Pleading with Fingers Crossed

by Judson P. Garrett

(This article originally appeared in the September 11, 2001 issue of The ASHA Leader.)

Over the past few years, individuals have pled guilty in criminal or licensure proceedings to conduct that also violated the ASHA Code of Ethics. Then, notwithstanding those admissions, they have proclaimed their innocence when complaints were filed with the Board of Ethics.

Some individuals have maintained that, although innocent, they pled guilty or admitted violations on the advice of counsel. Others allegedly did so because they could no longer finance a defense. Still others have insisted that their need for closure drove them to admit violations they had not committed. All would have had the Board of Ethics disregard their formal admissions. None have succeeded.

Admissions of guilt in a court or before a licensure agency are extremely serious, are binding, and have consequences well beyond the particular judicial or administrative proceeding in which they are made. Although the Board of Ethics will carefully review federal and state charges and admissions to determine whether the conduct admitted also violated the ASHA Code of Ethics, an admission of guilt in a court or licensure proceeding is, for all practical purposes, irrefutable evidence in a proceeding before the board.

Before pleading guilty to criminal charges or admitting violations of licensure laws or regulations, individuals who are subject to the ASHA Code of Ethics and their legal counsel should evaluate and weigh carefully the potential consequences of those admissions in a subsequent ASHA ethics proceeding.

Judson P. Garrett is the Principal Counsel for Opinions and Advice, Office of the County Attorney, Montgomery County, Maryland and serves as the public member of the ASHA Board of Ethics.

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