Wednesday, January 13, 2021

No Stone Left Unturned

The Utah Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney

The saga of the discipline of Brian W. Steffensen has continued for nearly a decade, now coming before this court for the third time. Though the matter has revealed numerous legal complexities over the years, it returns to us today primarily on the straightforward issue of the appropriateness of the district court‘s order disbarring Steffensen. We agree with the district court‘s analysis and affirm the disbarment order.

The court sets out the history of proceedings leading to a remand

Following our order of remand, the district court solicited proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law from each party to aid in the court‘s determination of the appropriate sanction. This is when the maxim that no good deed goes unpunished kicked in. The district court‘s apparent effort to "be  [and] give all [parties] an opportunity to respond" with their own proposed findings and conclusions quickly "mushroomed," as the district court aptly noted, "into something that seems to be far beyond what the Supreme Court ever intended."

The court on sanction

The district court recognized that the conduct amounting to Steffensen‘s 8.4(c) violation was not simply that Steffensen failed to remit tax monies but rather that, in doing so, he breached his fiduciary duty to his employees. It was this breach in particular that called for presumptive disbarment under rule 14-605(a)(3), which applies when a lawyer "engages in . . . intentional misconduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation that seriously adversely reflects on the lawyer‘s fitness to practice law."

...With this opinion, we bring to a close this decade-long adjudication of Steffensen‘s conduct, comfortable in having left no legal or factual stones unturned in reaching this ultimate resolution. We affirm the district court‘s order of disbarment.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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