June 27, 2008
A two-year suspension was imposed by the Kansas Supreme Court in a matter where the accused attorney was one of five children. During the father's lifetime, disputes among the siblings arose in competing guardianship and conservatorship cases. The attorney was appointed guardian; a brother was named conservator. When father died, things really got ugly.
When his sister wrote the judge complaining about his conduct as guardian, the attorney responded with a malicious prosecution and defamation suit against sister and her attorney. The case was eventually dismissed with sanctions for frivolous litigation awarded to sister and her attorney. in determining sanction, the court noted three prior instances of discipline and quoted the hearing panel concerning the nature of the misconduct:
"The Hearing Panel has carefully considered the Respondent's misconduct in this case. The Hearing Panel is troubled by the Respondent's misconduct in this case. The Respondent's suit against his sister and her attorney was founded in defamation and abuse of process [malicious prosecution]. However, the damages alleged by the Respondent had nothing to do with the allegations of the petition. The Respondent sought more than $112,000 from his sister and his sister's attorney for unreimbursed expenses attendant to his father's needs and for the Respondent's time spent visiting his father. The Hearing Panel finds that the Respondent engaged in excessively aggressive conduct that assails the standards to which lawyers are to conduct themselves, in that Respondent would attempt to have his sister and her attorney pay the Respondent for time he spent visiting his father and other alleged damages that were not even remotely related to the allegations in the Petition or the Amended Petition.
The court did not consider the lawyer's lack of prior experience with defamation cases as a mitigating factor. (Mike Frisch)
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