Friday, January 25, 2019
The Kansas Supreme rejected a Hearing Panel's proposed indefinite suspension and disbarred an attorney.
The court quoted the panel
The respondent engaged in serious misconduct. The respondent took $45,000 from an estate without permission. While it is important that he repaid the money, the fact remains he engaged in serious dishonest conduct.
The respondent's serious misconduct is mitigated by considerable evidence in his favor. Prior to engaging in the misconduct in this case, the respondent enjoyed a long and productive law career in Southeast Kansas. The hearing panel was particularly moved by Exhibit N, an email message sent from a young man the respondent previously coached in baseball. Clearly, the respondent has made significant contributions to his community.
Based on the serious nature of the respondent's misconduct and after considering the Supreme Court's opinions in In re Wright, 276 Kan. 357 (2003); In re Schnittker, 298 Kan. 89 (2013); In re Harrington, 305 Kan. 643 (2016); and In re Lundgren, 306 Kan. 482 (2017), a majority of the hearing panel recommends that the Supreme Court indefinitely suspend the respondent's license to practice law.
A panel member concurred and dissented
While I concur in the above findings of fact and conclusions of law, I respectfully dissent from the majority's recommendation in this case. The misconduct in this case was the result of a perfect storm—the respondent suffers from depression, his son was in a serious car accident, his father was gravely ill, and his father passed away all in a relatively short period of time. Because of the significant evidence in mitigation, and because of the impressive endorsements by respected members of Mr. Grillot's community and profession, I recommend that the respondent's license be suspended for a period of two years. I also recommend that prior to considering reinstating the respondent's license to practice law, the Court require the respondent to file a petition for reinstatement and appear before a hearing panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys pursuant to Rule 219.
The court was less understanding
This court agrees with the recommendation of the Disciplinary Administrator and holds that disbarment is the appropriate discipline.
The respondent violated multiple rules of professional conduct and their subsections, some of them numerous times. We agree with the panel that he engaged in "serious dishonest conduct." Among other things, he admitted that while he was the emergency administrator of the A.V. estate he improperly paid out $45,000 from its funds to himself. And he made these eight different estate disbursements over nine months without: (1) presentation to the district court; (2) approval by the court; or (3) reporting to that court when, pursuant to court order, he filed the July 2017 estate accountings. While he did make repayment, he did so only after the court ordered him to file the accountings; and he did not report that repayment to the court. See American Bar Association Standard 5.11 ("Disbarment is generally appropriate when . . . [b] a lawyer engages in any other intentional conduct involving dishonesty . . . that seriously adversely reflects on the lawyer's fitness to practice.").
Oral argument video linked here. (Mike Frisch)