Friday, June 5, 2009
The Iowa Supreme Court suspended an attorney's license without possibility of reinstatement for eighteen months in a case involving a host of ethical violations in several matters. One finding of misconduct related to the lawyer's deposition of a former client. The court affirmed findings that the lawyer's conduct, in the face of the former client's repeated assertion of the attorney-client privilege, violated the lawyer's obligation of confidentiality to the former client:
Even if it were not already apparent to [the lawyer] that [the client] considered his domestic abuse history as a distinct embarrassment, this became clear to him when [the client] declined to answer because he believed the questions inquired about a matter protected by the attorney-client privilege. Notwithstanding [the client's] initial refusal on the ground of privilege to answer the question posed, [the attorney] persisted and expressly inquired as to the substance of a conversation he claimed to have had with [the client] about the consequences of any plea bargain in the criminal case. We find [his] conduct during the deposition crossed the line of appropriate zealous representation in the commercial litigation, and constituted a revelation of a former client's secret...
The court increased the sanction that had been recommended by the Grievance Commission, noting that the evidence concerning the handling of entrusted funds raised the possibility of revocation and that the lawyer had a history of prior discipline. (Mike Frisch)