Lawyer who argued cocaine can be beneficial now says he should have retained counsel in ethics case

The ABA Journal

Updated: A now-former assistant public defender who was accused of using cocaine before his client’s hearing is in drug rehab and seeking disciplinary probation, rather than a suspension of his law license.

Erie, Pennsylvania, lawyer Nathaniel Edmond Strasser had initially suggested in a disciplinary hearing that cocaine can have a positive effect on cognitive abilities in low doses. But now, Strasser is represented by counsel and acknowledging that his self-representation in the ethics case “was inappropriate and deficient,” according to a brief filed by his current lawyer, Philip Friedman.

The Erie Times-News covered the brief, filed last week with the disciplinary board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

“Despite his testimony, he is in fact an addict,” Friedman wrote in the brief. “Like many other professionals, he has a difficult time acknowledging that fact.”

Strasser submits to regular urine tests as part of his outpatient rehabilitation program. He should be placed on “substance abuse probation” subject to conditions set by the disciplinary board, the brief said. He previously received in-patient treatment in 2018 and 2019 but did not submit that evidence to the board, the brief said.

The Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel had recommended a suspension of a year and a day in a November 2023 brief.

Strasser was admitted to law practice in 2007. He has no prior ethics violations.

A phone number listed for Strasser on the disciplinary board website is no longer in service. Friedman told the ABA Journal in an email that he doesn’t know when the hearing committee will issue its recommendation.


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