May 15, 2008
Where There's A Will
The Indiana Supreme Court suspended an attorney for "at least three years" for a number of ethical violations in two matters. He had represented an elderly client who wished to name the lawyer as a beneficiary in his will. The lawyer had another lawyer friend draft the will, in which he was primary beneficiary and his son was contingent beneficiary. A week later, he sought to be named the guardian of the client, and was appointed. The client then retained other counsel and challenged the guardianship. The lawyer was an adverse party in that proceeding.
In a second matter, an incarcerated client told the lawyer about $20,000 that was not discovered in a search that had resulted in the seizure of 100 pounds of marijuana (as opposed to a hundred pounds of clay) and a substantial amount of cash. The attorney found the money and deposited it into his personal account. He arranged for the client to transfer ownership of his condo to pay legal fees. He later refused to return ownership to the client.
In imposing a sanction, the court noted prior discipline that included an 18 month suspension for filing a false federal tax return and a lack of recognition of wrongdoing. A dissent notes the same factors and would disbar:"it is hard to fashion an argument for the public that Respondent's behavior has been such that we might at some future date want, again, to tell clients they can entrust their dearest matters to him." A second dissent confesses error in voting not to disbar for the conviction and to reinstate. (Mike Frisch)
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