March 8, 2013
There Was A Will
The Kansas Supreme Court imposed a one-year suspension of an attorney for misconduct in a probate matter.
The attorney had a copy of the decedent's will. He nonetheless filed a pleading that claimed no will existed, engaged in ex parte communication with the judge and failed to serve the pleading on counsel for the beneficiaries.
The matter came to light based on publication in a newspaper that was seen by the beneficiaries. They retained new counsel, who contacted the attorney.
The attorney contended that the will was not genuine (he had a handwriting analysis to that effect) and refused to correct the pleading. (Mike Frisch)
From Super To Suspended
The court's order was based upon a lengthy recitation of stipulated ethical violations that the attorney committed while employed as an associate of a Philadelphia law firm.
Among the numerous stipulated acts of misconduct was dishonesty in the attorney's providing access to the law firm's Westlaw account to an attorney friend.
He submitted letters in mitigation that included one from former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and another from the Dean of the Temple University Beasley School of Law. (Mike Frisch)
March 7, 2013
The Evidence Melted In His Mouth, Not His Hand
The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging three criminal acts by an attorney.
The first two counts allege conduct that led to convictions. One instance involved a domestic assault on his sister-in-law.
The other conviction involved a misdemeanor theft for eating M&M's in a store without paying for them:
Respondent entered a Dominick’s grocery store in Morton Grove, Illinois, and proceeded to take various food items off the shelves, including but not limited to a 6 oz. package of M&M’s candy, and eat them without paying for said items. After observing Respondent’s conduct, employees of Dominick’s contacted the Morton Grove Police Department, who later arrived on the scene and arrested Respondent.
The third count alleges cyberstalking of a woman after she had ended their relationship.
The complaint recites the contents of a number of faxes sent to the woman's workplace by the attorney.
The last one:
"If I ever see you again-im gonna rip your bra off and stangle you with it lmao"
A Unique Law Office
My favorite state high court web site, hands down, is the site of the North Dakota Supreme Court.
Here's a reason why: a link to a story (and video) from KELO News about a really unique law office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- it once was a bank robbed by John Dillinger.
The robbery was depicted in the movie Public Enemies. (Mike Frisch)
Applicant For Admission Forever Barred (Not In A Good Way)
The Supreme Court of Ohio has denied an application for bar admission.
Unlike the typical denial, the court forever barred a future application.
The applicant has demonstrated a
disturbing pattern of violating the laws of this state and other states, engaged in prohibited self-dealing while serving as the fiduciary of a trust, knowingly violated the rules of the university he attended, and engaged in a pattern of lies and half-truths throughout the admission process.
The applicant had 13 traffic citations and arrests for receiving stolen property. He had sued his own father over trusts funded by his mother's inheritance and misappropriated other funds. The university violation involved his (prohibited) purchase of a $60 faculty parking permit for $10.
The court found that the applicant had violated court orders, threatened an attorney with a disciplinary complaint or contempt without basis, demonstrated a "perverse disregard for others" and a "pervasive pattern of lies and omissions" in the application process.
The court cites to evidence from the applicant's Florida bar admission proceedings.
The applicant graduated from law school in 2010. (Mike Frisch)
March 6, 2013
Criminal Conduct Results In Disbarment
An attorney was disbarred today by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Although the attorney was found (by default) to have engaged in client - related misconduct and failed to cooperate in the disciplinary process, the "most serious" violation was his criminal conviction for first degree felony assault on his roommate.
The roommate was seriously injured in the assault.
The court noted that the attorney had claimed to be in treatment but failed to establish a basis for mitigation of the sanction.
CBS Minnesota reported that the Christmas Day 2010 assault led to a prison sentence of six years and three months. (Mike Frisch)
Disqualification When Judge's Son Serves As Police Officer
Reviewing an ethics advisory opinion, the New Jersey Supreme Court has held that a municipal court judge whose child serves as a police officer in the municipality is barred from hearing cases involving that police department.
The judge also may not supervise other judges who hear cases involving the municipal police department.
The unanimous court concluded that an "informed and reasonable person" could question the judge's impartiality under the circumstances.
The judge had sought review of an opinion of the Advisory Committee on Extraudicial Activities. (Mike Frisch)
Gunning For A Sanction
An attorney who was convicted on a no contest plea in Rhode Island to a felony offense involving carrying a .38 caliber handgun without a license has been suspended for a year and a day by a justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
According to this summary on the web page of the Board of Bar Overseers, the attorney assumed retired status in Massachusetts after the arrest and plea, failed to report the conviction as required and failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation.
The Providence Journal reported that the attorney was arrested in the Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General. (Mike Frisch)
Ban From Ohio Overturned
From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:
The Ninth District Court of Appeals has ruled that the Medina County Court of Common Pleas cannot issue a lifelong ban to a Florida man from entering the state of Ohio.
According to court documents, George Mose, of Bradenton, Florida, drove to Brunswick, Ohio with plans to kill a woman he was previously involved with. Acting on a tip, police later found Mose in a motel room with incriminating evidence. He was charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of attempted aggravated burglary.
As part of a plea agreement, Mose pleaded guilty to all three counts and “agreed never to return to the State of Ohio during his lifetime other than for parole requirements.” The trial court accepted the agreement and sentenced Mose to three years of prison with credit for time served.
Mose then filed an application for a delayed appeal and said the common pleas court erred by “not providing [Mr. Mose] with the proper post release control terms in the sentence.” He also said the trial court “lacked subject matter jurisdiction to accept his guilty pleas because his actions did not constitute an ‘attempt’ to commit murder or burglary.”
Judge Carla Moore wrote the appeals court’s unanimous decision and said: “We agree that Mr. Mose’s lifelong banishment from the State of Ohio is contrary to law … While we understand that Mr. Mose agreed to this sanction, the trial court was without authority to impose a punishment which is not authorized by statute. As such, we must vacate only that portion of Mr. Mose’s sentence.”
Judges Beth Whitmore and Donna Carr concurred in the February 25 opinion that vacated only the portion of the judgment banishing Mose from the State of Ohio, and affirmed the remainder of judgment of the Medina County Court of Common Pleas.
Candor And Bar Admission
A 2010 Florida Coastal School of Law graduate has been denied admission to the Bar by the Ohio Supreme Court.
The court agreed with the unfavorable recommendation of the Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness in light of several issues.
The applicant failed to disclose numerous traffic violations (no fewer than 14), including driving on a suspended license. He provided four different explanations of the failure to disclose.
Further, the applicant was not truthful regarding the repayment of a default judgment entered due to his failure to pay city taxes.
The applicant will be permitted to reapply in July 2017. (Mike Frisch)
March 5, 2013
Duty Of Candor
An attorney who agreed to a 30 day suspension in 2008 violated the order by failing to withdraw from a case, made misrepresentations to the client and to Bar Counsel in the reinstatement process.
He could not represent the client who had paid him fees because of the suspension and his employment with the IRS.
The Maryland Court of Appeals imposed disbarment, concluding that "[i]intentional dishonest conduct, involving mispresentations to the courts, can warrant disbarment." There were no "compelling mitigating circumstances" to justify a lesser sanction. (Mike Frisch)
March 4, 2013
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary has reprimanded and censured a judge who dismissed a speeding ticket issued to his son.
The son was pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by 15 miles per hour.
The judge dismissed the ticket outside the regular court processes without notice to the prosecutors or the court presence of the defendant.
The court called the judge's actions a "serious violation" that "strikes at the heart" of the proper administration of equal justice. (Mike Frisch)
Failure To Report Employee's Crimes Draws Disbarment
The Georgia Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney who was convicted of misprison of felony.
The Birmingham News reported that the criminal charges involved the failure to report thefts by an employee:
Hutto, 61, had been appointed in September 2007 by Tuscaloosa County
Probate Court as temporary guardian to a 79-year-old woman who suffered
dementia, delusion disorder, and paranoia and required nursing home
care, according to Hutto's plea agreement. Between Sept. 28, 2007 and
April 18, 2008, a male employee in her office, whose work included
clerical duties, used the elderly woman's debit card and a department
store card to make purchases totaling $19,358.
Purchases included paying for two plane tickets and a trip to a resort in Mexico, and a Coach designer purse that the employee gave to Hutto as a Christmas present in 2007.
Once Hutto found out in April 2008 about the use of the credit cards, she and her law partner fired the employee. But Hutto re-hired the former employee a short time later after she parted ways with her law partner and created her own firm, according to the plea agreement.
Hutto never reported the crimes, according to the plea agreement with the U.S. Attorneys Office in Birmingham.
The blog Estate of Denial (Shining LIght on the Dark Side of Estate Management) had this report on the underlying issues.
The attorney defaulted on the Georgia bar charges. (Mike Frisch)
March 3, 2013
Overbilling Draws Suspension
An attorney who overbilled public agencies in two states for his court-appointed services to indigent children was suspended for four years by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
The summary on the web page recites that the attorney submitted "inaccurate, and greatly inflated, and/or simply false" billing statements over a period of years.
He billed 3,642.5 hours in 2008 and 3,826.25 hours in 2009.
That comes to roughly ten hours a day every day, including weekends and holidays.
The attorney entered into a restitution agreement and will not be eligible for reinstatement until the obligation is repaid. (Mike Frisch)