April 1, 2011
The Iowa Supreme Court revoked the licenses of two attorneys who are husband and wife. The court reected the sanction of an indefinite suspension of no less than six months as proposed by its Grievance Commission.
The conduct involved the estate of the wife's mother, who died in July 2000. Social security payments continued and were deposited into the account held in trust for the mother. The funds were used to reimburse the husband's legal fees and to repair the mother's real property. The couple promptly reimbused the overpayments when the situation came to light.
A federal indictment relating to the social security payments followed. Each pled guilty a one misdemeanor count. Kansas (where both were admitted) suspended the wife for two years and imposed an indefinite suspension of the husband. Iowa was less forgiving:
When a sanction less severe than revocation has been imposed against attorneys who have misappropriated a client's money or fiduciary funds, we have found the attorneys "had a colorable claim to the funds or did not take the funds for their own use." We find no factual basis in the record supporting a finding that the [couple] had a colorable future claim to the government funds in the trust's bank account or that the funds were not taken for their own use.
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