Sunday, June 10, 2018

After The Flood

An 18 month suspension has been ordered by the Virgin Islands Supreme Court for an attorney's mishandling of an estate

In this case, Maynard violated his duty of competence on each of these grounds. Maynard testified that he did not maintain a separate trust account for the Bender estate, failed to file quarterly accounts with the Superior Court on behalf of the Bender estate as required by the Virgin Islands Code, and failed to distribute the estate’s assets to its beneficiaries. Moreover, the record reveals multiple lengthy delays, from 1996 to 2000, then from 2000 to 2006, and then again from 2006 until 2010, and Maynard testified that the estate still remains open. Maynard’s defense that his associates handled the Bender estate is unavailing because Maynard possessed a duty to supervise those associates, and is therefore accountable for their shortcomings. See V.I. S. CT. R.211.5.1. Accordingly, we agree with the panel’s conclusion that clear and convincing evidence demonstrates that Maynard violated Supreme Court Rule 211.1.1 in his handling of the Bender estate.

The court rejected findings of fee misconduct but sustained findings he had failed to safekeep property

The Board concluded that Maynard violated Rule 211.1.15 because Bender’s safety deposit box was never located and is presumed lost, because one of the three savings accounts is missing and the other two were never distributed to the estate’s beneficiaries, because the life insurance policies were never distributed to the estate’s beneficiaries, and because no records were kept with respect to disbursements of the proceeds from the Hurricane Hugo insurance litigation. Maynard claims he did not violate Rule 211.1.15 because he, “personally, has never received any assets belonging to the Estate that he did not promptly inform the probate court of or distribute to the clients.” Maynard further argues that the original stock certificates used to prepare the final accounting were destroyed when the bottom floor of Maynard’s office flooded...

Here, Maynard’s behavior evidences repeated violations of his duty under Rule 211.1.15. Contrary to the guidelines provided by the Rules, Maynard testified that he kept original stock certificates belonging to the estate in the downstairs portion of his office, and that as a result, flooding from Hurricane Marilyn destroyed those certificates. Additionally, Maynard failed to account for, and ultimately, to distribute either the proceeds from the VA life insurance policy, or the contents of the safety deposit box. Further, Maynard testified that he incrementally distributed all of the proceeds from the Hurricane Hugo insurance litigation to Thomas Sheridan, thereby evidencing that Prince did not receive a single dollar of those settlement proceeds, despite the Superior Court’s February 12, 1993 order that the precedes be distributed “to the personal representatives” of the Bender estate jointly.


Considering the important nature of the duties violated, Maynard’s clear negligence in discharging those duties, and the substantial financial injuries suffered by the beneficiaries as a result of those violations, we agree with the Board that suspension represents the appropriate sanction in this case, rather than reprimand as Maynard contends.we conclude that Maynard should be suspended from the practice of law for a total period of eighteen months. Indeed, this case presents a picture of a highly experienced, reputable attorney who nevertheless engaged in a pattern of egregious neglect that ultimately resulted in losses to his client—not just of cash, but of personal property that should have passed from Bender to the beneficiaries of her estate. However, in light of our existing precedent, we conclude that suspension for a period of six, as opposed to twelve months is the appropriate baseline sanction...

 Maynard violated his duties under Supreme Court Rules 211.1.1, 211.1.3, 211.1.4, 211.1.15, and 211.8.1 by, among other things, permitting the probate of an estate to languish for over a decade, failing to communicate with Prince with respect to the liquidation of certain securities, and by failing to keep safe certain property of that estate. Maynard’s lethargic attitude toward the administration of the Bender estate not only significantly delayed the beneficiaries’ receipt of certain assets, it wholly precluded them from receiving other assets, which were lost due to the passage of time and Maynard’s generally negligent handling of the Bender estate. Accordingly, we order Maynard to pay restitution to the beneficiaries of the Bender estate in the amount of $29,269.85, representing the value of the assets lost due to his negligence, and we suspend Maynard from the practice of law in this jurisdiction for a period of eighteen months.

(Mike Frisch)

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