Friday, May 1, 2009

Pattern Of Misconduct Results In Disbarment

The California Bar Journal reports on a recent disbarment case:

During a 16-year period since [the attorney's] 1977 admission to the bar, he committed 43 ethical violations involving 12 clients. In the most recent matter, he represented a woman in her 1995 divorce. The court granted the dissolution upon [his] completion of a judgment but he conceded he did not draft a proposal or submit it to opposing counsel.

Although he contended he agreed to represent the client only up to a particular hearing, he did not execute a fee agreement reflecting such an arrangement nor did he attempt to withdraw from the case. The client, however, testified [the attorney] agreed to appear at the hearing and to finalize her divorce and child support orders.

Over the next four years, the client had difficulty reaching [him], but when she spoke with him, he said he was working on her paperwork. She did not have the money to hire a new lawyer despite her frustrations.

At one point, the client’s child support increased, leading her to believe [the attorney] had finalized the judgment. She did not try to contact him again until 2002 when the support decreased significantly without notice. She learned at that time that no judgment was ever entered. When she contacted [him], he said he could not recall her or her case. The client sent him documents and a transcript from the hearing, but he never responded.

In 2003, the client paid another lawyer to write to [the attorney], who did not respond. In 2006, more than 10 years after first hiring [him], she hired another lawyer to finalize her divorce. During part of that time, [the attorney] was suspended for nonpayment of bar fees, yet he discussed the divorce with his client and promised to complete her paperwork. The review department found that his failure to tell the client about his suspension constituted moral turpitude.

[The attorney] has an extensive record of prior misconduct, beginning with a 1994 suspension and probation for failing to perform competently or comply with a court order and abandoning clients. He was disciplined two years later and ordered to make restitution and again in 2000.

In recommending his disbarment, Judge JoAnn Remke wrote, “This is Krohn’s fourth time in the discipline process. His misconduct spreads over 16 years and involves 13 clients. He has been found culpable of violating the conditions of his probation on two separate occasions, and has failed to cooperate with the State Bar in all four matters. Krohn’s repeated encounters with attorney discipline have neither rehabilitated him nor deterred him from committing further misconduct.”

The review panel acknowledged [the attorney's] physical and emotional problems but gave them little weight in mitigation because he failed to establish how they related to his misconduct. They also gave nominal weight to his pro bono activities because the extent of his participation was unclear.

(Mike Frisch)

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