Friday, December 29, 2017
You do not see many bar discipline cases in the Midwest defended by high-profile Washington, D.C. lawyers from the law firm Williams & Connolly.
A disbarment imposed by the Kansas Supreme Court today is one.
This is a contested attorney discipline proceeding against Rickey Edward Hodge, Jr., who was admitted to practice law in Kansas in September 2008. A panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys made lengthy findings of fact and concluded Hodge violated the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct (KRPC) while representing a financially distressed Wichita-based landscaping company. Highly summarized, Hodge attempted to purchase the company's assets, as well as an 80-acre ranch held by the company's majority shareholder. The accusations involve conflict of interest, client exploitation, and self-dealing.
After five days of hearings, spread out between October 2015 and March 2016, the panel unanimously determined that Hodge violated KRPC 1.7 (2017 Kan. S. Ct. R. 300)
(concurrent conflict of interest); 1.8(a) (2017 Kan. S. Ct. R. 307) (conflict of interest arising from entering business transaction with client), and 1.8(b) (using information to the client's disadvantage); 4.2 (2017 Kan. S. Ct. R. 353) (communication with person represented by counsel); and 8.4(g) (2017 Kan. S. Ct. R. 379) (engaging in conduct adversely reflecting on lawyer's fitness to practice law). The panel unanimously recommended Hodge be disbarred.
The court here affirmed the hearing panel's conclusions in a 97-page opinion laying out the current client conflicts, business transactions with a client misconduct and unauthorized communications.
The entire panel report is recited in the opinion.
Oral argument video linked here.
The story, as argued by Deputy Disciplinary Administrator, is "factually dense."
I also approvingly note the practice of the court in hearing argument of the attorney personally after counsel speaks. Sometimes (as here) it is painful to watch. (Mike Frisch)