December 17, 2012
The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board has affirmed an order of a hearing panel dismissing bar charges against an attorney.
The attorney's client had won a million dollars in the Michigan state lottery in 1984. She divorced her husband in 1997. The divorce decree "provided for a even split of the lottery payments" after taxes and other designated setoffs.
The client retained the attorney in connection with the distribution of the final payment. He was paid a retainer which he placed in his escrow account, but there was no evidence that the payments came from the lottery proceeds. He tried to negotiate a resolution with the husband. Eventually, the money was returned to the client.
The panel found (and the board agreed) that the attorney did not have an obligation to hold the escrowed funds for the benefit of the husband. Rather, the husband had a "generalized third party interest" in the funds that did not create an obligation under Rule 1.15. (Mike Frisch)
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