Friday, November 3, 2017

The Lost Ward

The Nebraska Supreme Court has ordered a one-year suspension for misconduct over a sustained period of time

This is an attorney discipline case in which the only question before this court is the appropriate sanction. Rodney A. Halstead admitted to authoring and filing annual guardianship reports containing false statements over a period of 6 years. The referee recommended that Halstead be suspended from the practice of law for 1 year with other conditions set forth in more detail below. Because this is a serious offense which was repeated year after year, we adopt the referee’s recommendation and enter a judgment of suspension.

After his appointment in 2009, he filed annual reports

each report contained information which Halstead knew to be false. In annual reports filed in 2010 and 2011, Halstead handwrote virtually identical responses: “I have seen [the ward] about once a month [and] check via phone more often.” Then, in 2012, his typical response changed and he handwrote, “I have been kept updated mostly by telephone.” Halstead handwrote this same response in his 2013 and 2014 report. Finally, in his 2015 report, Halstead replied in shorthand and handwrote, “updated by telephone.” In fact, Halstead had not visited the ward or spoken to anyone at the ward’s assisted living facility since 2009. If he had, he would have learned that the ward had moved out of the assisted living facility in 2011. Halstead learned of the ward’s actual whereabouts only after a court-appointed visitor found the ward at another address and reported Halstead’s neglect to the court.

No lesser sanction

We recognize that Halstead fully cooperated with the Counsel for Discipline, had practiced for many years, and had no previous disciplinary history. And we have considered the other mitigating factors identified by the referee. But the duty of candor to the tribunal lies at the heart of an attorney’s role as an officer of the court. And this was no slip of the tongue. The falsehoods were made in writing and were repeated from year to year.

Therefore, upon our de novo review of the record, this court determines that Halstead should be suspended from the practice of law and required to comply with the other requirements set forth below.

 The case is State ex rel. Disciplinary Counsel v. Halstead. (Mike Frisch)

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