Tuesday, November 18, 2008
An Arizona Hearing Officer found that an accused attorney had not violated ethics rules and recommended that charges be dismissed in a matter where the attorney had served as personal representative of a deceased client's estate. The lawyer, who had no PR experience, hired his law partner as his counsel. While no conflicts check was initially done, it later was discovered that at least three estate creditors were firm clients. The beneficiaries, one of whom was an attorney, testified that the attorney "conducted himself like a professional and a gentleman."
The deceased had no estate save for a life insurance policy. He did compose songs and lyrics onto cassette tapes that the beneficiaries had sought, but the attorney withheld the tapes believing they had potential value. The family also believed that when the deceased died, "he fell against a grandfather clock which stopped in time." The clock was sold at an estate sale after notice to the beneficiaries. This aspect of the case calls to mind a song we used to sing in ninth grade choir.
The Arizona Court of Appeals had held in the underlying probate matter that the attorney had not violated ethics rules, as he had no duty to the beneficiaries. A complaint against the lawyer was filed by an attorney for the beneficiaries and was dismissed. The bar filed charges ten years after the initial complaint had been filed. Charges of conflicts of interest were filed but withdrawn. The hearing officer found no violation of rules prohibiting deceit and dishonesty. The accused had relied in good faith on the advice of counsel in performing his duties as PR. (Mike Frisch)