Thursday, February 28, 2008
The New Mexico Supreme Court disbarred an attorney who had sought a conservatorship as lawyer for the person for whom a conservator was sought as well as his wife (Ruth). The husband (Bruce) had set up two trusts with significant trust payments to the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago on his death. After a guardian ad litem was appointed, the attorney filed two lawsuits in federal court to void the Moody Bible trusts without notice to the guardian ad litem. He also took action to bar Bruce's access to accounts held as co-tenant with Ruth. After a court had disqualified him from representing Bruce due to the conflicts of interest with Ruth, the lawyer:
"...went to the dementia unit of the Woodmark, a residential care facility in which Bruce was a patient, and had Bruce removed from the dementia unit and taken to a private room to execute a new will and trust which Respondent had prepared for Bruce’s signature. The new will and trust sought to revoke the Moody Bible trusts and create a new trust with Ruth as trustee with all the power 'that an absolute owner of such property would have.' These documents had the additional effect of removing all of the assets belonging to Bruce from the jurisdiction of the court in the guardianship and conservatorship proceeding. Respondent did not notify the court, the guardian ad litem, or the temporary guardian and conservator of his intended visit with Bruce, or of his efforts to have Bruce sign a new will and trust. "
A hearing committee had recommended a six-month suspension with automatic reinstatement. A panel of the disciplinary board proposed disbarment. The court agreed, noting a prior instance of similar misconduct. The court also rejected a series of claims of prosecutorial misconduct. (Mike Frisch)