Monday, January 26, 2009
Noting that a sanction of disbarment was within the range of options for the misconduct, the Georgia Supreme Court imposed a six month suspension for intentional misuse of entrusted funds. The lawyer had used the funds for his own personal and business expensers.
The court gave significant weight to the lawyer's voluntary disclosure and repayment to the client, who expressed a willingness to continue to retain the lawyer. The court also noted personal issues of a non-recurring nature that mitigated against a greater sanction.
The court imposed the same sanction in an unrelated case involving the handling of funds entrusted to a minister as fiduciary for a disabled individual that had begun prior to the minister's bar admission. The court found commingling and failure to deposit the funds in an escrow account, noting the inexperience of the sanctioned lawyer. A dissent would impose more severe discipline. (Mike Frisch)