March 18, 2012
Divided Mississippi Court Grants Conditional Readmission
An interesting reinstatement petition has convinced a majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court to grant readmission to an attorney disbarred in April 2003 for misappropriation of client funds. The misconduct involved the petitioner's use of money intended for his client's bail premium.
The bail was reduced and the premium paid, but there were nearly $5,000 left over. The petitioner failed to return or account for the unused advanced expenses.
The petitioner had a record of discipline prior to disbarment that included three informal admonitions, two private reprimands and three public reprimands.
In July 2004, he entered a nine-month in-patient treatment program for alcoholism. He has maintained sobriety since completing the program.
The majority noted that he had failed to notify clients and courts of his disbarment, but found the lapse attributable his active alcoholism at the time. The majority also concluded that he had made sufficient restitution to his victim and was not obligated to pay them interest.
The majority rejected the State Bar's contention that the petitioner was obligated to seek out other clients to explore possible restitution obligations. The majority felt that such contacts from the distant past might be unwelcome.
Presiding Justice Carlson wrote the dissent:
I do not think [the petitioner] is ready for this honor.
The dissent gives petitioner credit for his recovery but notes significant questions about the suffiency of restitution and past debts. The dissent would not preclude eventual granting of the petition and sets out a "Roadmap to Readmission."
Two justices joined the dissent.
Readmission is conditioned on passing the Mississippi bar examination and the MPRE. (Mike Frisch)
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