December 3, 2009
A Family Matter
The Louisiana Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney for ethical violations in dealings with his former sister-in-law. His brother worked for Halliburton and had named his wife as the beneficiary of his life insurance. The brother gave his brother/lawyer power of attorney while overseas. The separation took its toll on the marriage and led to a divorce and property settlement that was completed in August 2000. In December 2000, the brother was killed in a traffic accident in Saudi Arabia, leaving his ex-wife as the beneficiary of over $800,000 in insurance.
The lawyer did not want the ex-wife to benefit and failed to share the information about the policy with her. She executed an agreement an agreement drafted by him signing away her rights for $25,000 without advising her to seek the advice of independant counsel. A hearing committee found the agreement "unconscionable, unfair, and unreasonable." The Disciplinary Board rejected the lawyer's claim that he was deprived of due process in the bar proceedings. the court here agreed that disbarment was appropriate:
Following his brother's death, respondent used his legal training to defraud [the ex-wife] of the life insurance proceeds to which she was entitled because he decided that she should not receive them...we will adopt the disciplinary board's recommendation of disbarment.
The court declined to follow the board's restitution recommendation: "...that issue is most appropriately resolved in the pending civil litigation." (Mike Frisch)
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