July 18, 2012
$20 Per Hour Overcharge And Escrow Lapse Draws Suspension, Not Disbarment
The North Dakota Supreme Court rejected a proposed sanction of disbarment as "inconsistent with and disproportionate to discipline imposed in similar cases" based on charges described in the court's opinion:
The Petition alleged that in approximately September 2010, Doyle and Sandra Burkhardt retained Mahler to advise them regarding a water drainage issue and paid him a $2,500 retainer. Mahler agreed to charge $100 per hour for his services. The retainer was deposited into Mahler's operating account rather than a trust account. Mahler spent the retainer on other obligations prior to earning the fees. In addition, following a Water Board Meeting during or around November 2010, Mahler failed to communicate with the Burkhardts. During the course of these proceedings, Mahler provided an invoice in which he charged $120 per hour for his services, rather than the agreed upon $100 per hour.
The court ordered a three-year suspension as well as restitution to the clients. (Mike Frisch)
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