Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I have recently discovered the California Bar Journal as a source of interesting disciplinary matters. Here's their summary of a recent disbarment of a lawyer located in Michigan for an array of serious ethical lapses:
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Schindler’s conduct in two client matters in Michigan, for which he was disciplined, warranted his disbarment here. In one matter, he violated 10 Michigan court rules and Rules of Professional Conduct and was suspended for nine months. They were the equivalent of three California rules: showing respect to the courts, moral turpitude and unauthorized practice.
While suspended for not paying Michigan bar dues, Schindler appeared at a hearing and told the court he was not suspended and that he had paid his dues. Because he had previously made a court appearance while suspended for non-payment, the court continued the hearing and ordered Schindler to provide a copy of his dues receipt and a letter from the bar stating that he was licensed to practice. He did not do so and paid his dues four days later.
He then told the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission that he had called the court to say he had complied with its orders when in fact he had not paid his dues.
In the second matter, Schindler was charged with misconduct in nine separate counts. Three involved his failure to participate in the Michigan bar’s investigation of his misconduct. The remaining cases addressed misconduct involving clients. For example, he did not file a lawsuit or refund a $500 retainer to one client.
He misappropriated $12,500 from a couple he represented in foreclosure proceedings. They lost their home. A probate client who loaned Schindler $10,000 obtained a default judgment against him when he did not repay the loan. He abandoned another client who hired him to handle a child custody matter. Although he filed a motion in that matter, he did no further work, even though the client was facing jail time.
In recommending his disbarment, Judge Richard Platel pointed to Schindler’s lies to both the Michigan grievance commission and his clients as well as his misappropriation and acts of moral turpitude. The misconduct findings, Platel wrote, “clearly support disbarment.”
It is also worth noting that many of the California cases use the "moral turpitude" label that most jurisdictions have abandoned. We still consider moral turpitude in the District of Columbia due to a statute that mandates disbarment for a criminal conviction involving moral turpitude, as we discussed in the Scooter Libby D. C. disbarment case. (Mike Frisch)