Friday, September 14, 2018

Will Rogers, ADHD And Bar Discipline

The Iowa Supreme Court has imposed a one-year suspension  of an attorney

Royce D. Turner, over a span of twenty months, was repeatedly rebuked by state and federal judges for missing hearings and violating court rules. He was found in contempt several times. Three of his clients were arrested and two were jailed for missing hearings he overlooked. Despite an ongoing audit, Turner continued to flout basic requirements for client trust accounts.

The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board brought a complaint against Turner alleging multiple violations of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct. He delayed responding to the Board’s inquiries and complaints. Our court imposed a five-month interim suspension to protect the public. We permitted Turner’s return to practice with the help of an experienced attorney under stipulated limitations pending resolution of the disciplinary charges.

The parties submitted a stipulation of facts. A division of the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission found violations of numerous rules. Noting Turner’s inexperience and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the commission recommended a three-month suspension of his license to practice law with conditions on his reinstatement. The Board recommends a suspension of twelve to eighteen months. Based on our de novo review, we now suspend Turner’s license to practice law for one year from the date of this opinion with conditions on his reinstatement.

Inexperienced sole practitioners who lack mentors and take on cases without the requisite experience are at greater risk of making mistakes. Any Iowa lawyer should be concerned about receiving one rebuke from a judge. Attorneys should view a single mistake as a wakeup call to reexamine practices or get help to avoid further missteps. Continuing to make the same mistakes without correcting behavior invariably leads to more trouble, as shown here. According to the adage commonly attributed to Will Rogers, “good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” We hope Turner gains better judgment from his bad experiences.

ADHD may mitigate if treatment is sought

We have recognized that “[p]ersonal illnesses, such as depression or attention deficit disorder, do not excuse a lawyer’s misconduct but can be mitigating factors.” Iowa Supreme Ct. Att’y Disciplinary Bd. v. Curtis, 749 N.W.2d 694, 703 (Iowa 2008). The key for mitigation is that the lawyer proactively seeks treatment to address the condition and avoid reoccurrence of the misconduct. See Clarity, 838 N.W.2d at 661 (“To be considered in mitigation, the alcoholism must have contributed to the ethical misconduct, and the lawyer must undertake rehabilitative efforts to control his addiction.”); see also Dolezal, 841 N.W.2d at 129 (noting that when an attorney receives treatment for an illness, “his efforts to get healthy must be considered in fashioning an appropriate sanction” (quoting Iowa Supreme Ct. Att’y Disciplinary Bd. v. Fields, 790 N.W.2d 791, 800 (Iowa 2010))). Because Turner attends counseling sessions and takes medication, we consider his depression and ADHD in mitigation.

The attorney was admitted in 2013. (Mike Frisch)

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