CARSON CITY, NEV., NOV. 26 -- Impeached federal judge Harry Claiborne said he will "start over" by opening a law office in southern Nevada now that the state Supreme Court has ruled he should be allowed to resume his private practice.
Claiborne served 17 months in prison and a halfway house following his conviction for evading his income taxes while sitting on the federal bench.
The court said Wednesday that Claiborne should receive no further punishment and be allowed to return to private practice.
Claiborne, 70, was impeached and ousted as a U.S. District Court judge by Congress in 1986.
The ruling was handed down one day after the court heard arguments on the issue in Las Vegas with a parade of prominent lawyers speaking on his behalf.
Contacted in Las Vegas, Claiborne said he plans to open a law office in southern Nevada in the near future.
"I don't know when, but it will be by the first of the year and then I will start over," Claiborne said.
"I had a good feeling about it, and I thought it would turn out all right. The best part about it was that all of my old friends, both friends and competitors that I practiced with and against for 30 years, said so many kind things about me. I am grateful for that. It was like hearing my eulogy early," Claiborne said.
The state Bar Association had raised the question of whether Claiborne should be disciplined because of his convictions, but did not oppose his being allowed to practice.
The court said "the paramount objective of disciplinary proceedings is not additional punishment of the attorney but rather to protect the public from persons unfit to serve as attorneys and to maintain public confidence in the bar as a whole."
The court said it also considered "the lawyer's prior exemplary professional standing, whether further punishment were warranted and also humanitarian concerns, such as age, ill health or other disability."
Claiborne was convicted in 1984 of failing to report $106,000 in income he received in 1979-80, earned doing private defense work in Las Vegas. Claiborne was appointed to the federal judiciary in 1978 by President Carter.
He entered prison in May 1986 and then was discharged to a halfway house in Las Vegas in June this year. He was released Oct. 19 but has not practiced law since then. While in prison, Claiborne refused to give up his judicial salary or resign from the bench, prompting Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.
Claiborne is seeking a new trial on grounds the Federal Bureau of Investigation planned a break-in of his house that produced records used against him in the tax trial.