Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Note

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court imposed a year and a day suspension in a disciplinary matter. The court followed the recommendation of its Disciplinary Board. The board had rejected the proposed sanction of a hearing committee for a six-month stayed suspension and twelve months probation with conditions.

The attorney had been informally admonished for neglect-type violations in 2004 and 2006. He agreed to handle a claim of employer retaliation and received a $3,000 fee. He improperly treated the fee as his own on receipt, although the board found that there was "no dispute" the client received services that would have exceeded the full retainer on an hourly basis. The attorney filed the complaint and two amended complaints, in federal court. The case was proceeding when the attorney was transferred to inactive status for failure to complete CLE obligations.

The attorney then disappeared. The client went to his office looking for him and found a note in his file, which read in part: "I have committed extreme neglect in the handling of [the client's] case." The client was able to secure a continuance and new counsel but eventually lost the case.

The attorney had a history of substance abuse but failed to establish his recovery or that the abuse caused the misconduct. Thus, the board concluded that probation was not appropriate and that he should establish fitness to practice before reinstated. (Mike Frisch)

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