Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No Restitution In Misappropriation Case

The D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility has filed a report recommending disbarment in a case involving intentional (or at least reckless) misappropriation and related dishonesty. The attorney had converted over $9,000 in entrusted estate funds. Two notable aspects of the case. First, it appears that a matter docketed for investigation less than two years ago has worked its way from hearing committee to board to court with lightning speed by D.C. standards. Second, even though the lawyer has been "unjustifiably enriched" the board concludes that restitution should not be required for reinstatement because "the estate has been made whole by the surety that [the attorney] paid to guarantee the assets of the estate... the relationship between [the attorney] and her surety was not an issue of which there is evidence...nor is it an issue that is within our competence."

What "competence" is needed to fashion a sanction that prevents the unjust enrichment of the lawyer? Seems to me that, under the circumstances, the lawyer should be required pay the restitution to the client security fund if reinstatement is sought. Such a result would be preferable to allowing the reinstatement of an attorney who kept misappropriated funds. (Mike Frisch)


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