Monday, September 12, 2011

Ignorance No Excuse

A Louisiana Hearing Committee has recommended a fully-deferred three-year suspension of an attorney who systematically violated ethical obligations relating to the administration of her trust account. The committee found that the attorney's supposed ignorance of the principles of handling other people's money was no excuse:

There is, even absent the stipulation and the expert testimony, simply no question that Respondent is guilty of not only commingling but also systematic and routine commingling of funds between her trust account and her operating account. Respondent maintains that this was not as a result of any improper intent but simply a reflection of the fact that she did not know ( either as a result of lack of mentoring or a deficiency in her legal education) that there was a difference between funds which should be placed into her trust account and those funds which were appropriately placed in her operating account. It is argued (by Respondent) that the evidence of repeated transfers back and forth, the failure to account, and the overall lack of documentation is evidence not of intent but rather of a total lack of understanding of which account was to be used for what purpose and as such Respondent’s actions are at worst negligent.

The Committee has considered the evidence presented and simply cannot conclude that Respondent was completely unaware of the difference between what is appropriately deposited into a lawyer’s trust account versus that which is to be deposited into a lawyer’s operating account. In other words, the Committee is not convinced of Respondent’s veracity when she states that she had no idea what her trust account was to be used for. This argument is really unpersuasive for several reasons...

 The committee recommends probation of two years. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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