Saturday, June 18, 2022
The Kansas Supreme Court has cited "unusual circumstances" in rejecting competing sanction proposals
Here, a majority of the court declines to follow the recommendations. A minority of the court would follow the recommendations or impose a longer defined period of suspension with probationary terms.
We reach these conclusions under unusual circumstances. We are faced with determining the appropriate discipline of an attorney reinstated to the practice of law following a disbarment—perhaps a first-of-its kind situation in our state's modern history of attorney discipline. The rarity of that circumstance and the realization that respondent has violated a privilege very few attorneys have been allowed weighs heavily in our consideration of the appropriate discipline.
Also, the totality of respondent's disciplinary history reveals patterns of frequent and similar misconduct that has led to escalating levels of discipline up to disbarment.
The court described that history
In addition to the disturbing frequency of respondent's misconduct, his disciplinary history reveals a similarity in the type of misconduct he commits. In the prior disciplinary proceedings, like here, the respondent's discipline arose because he failed to exercise diligence when managing the legal matters entrusted to him, failed to appropriately and timely communicate with his clients, and failed to fully cooperate with the disciplinary process.
There was mitigation
Against these considerations we balance mitigating circumstances surrounding respondent's behavior. The disciplinary panel found significant mitigating factors. Specifically, respondent suffered enormous personal losses and depression during the time of his latest ethical violations. We feel great empathy for the respondent's losses and recognize that depression is often a life-long struggle. We also acknowledge the record suggests respondent is a good person and a knowledgeable attorney who has helped many clients. But it also reveals that respondent struggles mightily to manage the stresses of the practice of law. He also fails to conform his office practices of trust accounting and other processes to our profession's ethical standards.
After carefully considering the evidence presented, as well as the Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, we adopt the panel's findings and conclusions and indefinitely suspend respondent under Supreme Court Rule 225(a)(2) (2022 Kan. S. Ct. R. at 281). Respondent must comply with Rule 232 if he later seeks reinstatement.