Monday, December 21, 2009
An unusual bar discipline matter involves an attorney admitted in 1966 who practices primarily in Colorado. The attorney suffers from serious health problems. He practiced in a tw-person form with his wife. He was responsible for operation of the firm's trust account. When the State Bar received an overdraft notice, the matter was docketed for investigation against the spouse. The attorney prepared the responses and the spouse was censured and placed on probation. Thereafter, the bar investigated the attorney.
The hearing officer accepted a conditional admission the the attorney failed to make reasonable efforts to assure the firm managed the trust account in a manner that conformed with ethical obligations and failed to properly supervise staff. The bar conditionally dismissed charges that the attorney had misled it in connection with the investigation of his law partner spouse. Although the lawyer had previously completed diversion for trust account violations, he is 77 years old and appeared at the disciplinary hearing with an oxygen tank to assist with breathing.
The hearing officer accepted the parties' recommended 60 day suspension with resignation upon reinstatement within 10 days: "The agreement reached by the parties is (according to counsel) perhaps the first of its kind. The reinstatement application, if any, would be heard according to...the same procedures as for members who have been summarily suspended. This means the application would be heard by the State Bar Board of Governors, not by the Supreme Court's Committee on Character and Fitness and then the Supreme Court. However, the Rule protects the public because the burden is on Respondent to establish the grounds to be reinstated." (Mike Frisch)