February 22, 2008
Not Laches But Mitigation
The Iowa Supreme Court reprimanded an attorney who had previously been suspended followed by probation as reciprocal discipline based on a Nebraska sanction. The court found improper business transactions with a client but rejected charges of neglect and failure to return an unearned fee. The court's handling of the sanction issue is quite instructive. The misconduct occured during the same time period as the Nebraska violations. The attorney has now been reinstated in Nebraska (but not in Iowa)and compliant with his Nebraska probation. There was a significant delay in bringing charges in Iowa.
While rejecting claims of laches and equitable estoppel, the court found that "[the attorney] has a point. He had been severely sanctioned for his past misconduct, but has no recent misconduct...Further, some of his past misconduct appears to be associated with various medical conditions, which appear to have been resolved." A fresh Iowa suspension "could lead to reciprocal sanctions in Nebraska, thereby unfairly disrupting [his] efforts at rehabilitation. While this disruptive feature does not establish a complete defense, we do find it a factor that should be considered in mitigation." Thus, no suspension here. (Mike Frisch)
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