My Shingle

  • Bruce Godfrey

    I suspect that either error would not have cost him nearly as severely, but that the multiple errors got him in trouble. Bar Counsel found out about this somehow; he should have had enough in the escrow account to handle his client's portion of the settlement (i.e. where was it, unless he had already defalcated it)? Was there a bounce?

    It's not the deposit that gets me, but the prior unauthorized withdrawal or failure to deposit client money. If he had a good reason to deposit his own money in (e.g. anticipated bank fees) that's not commingling but generally permitted activity under most bar rules.

    The $2K fee seems like sharp practice but somehow less severe. If he had no disciplinary record I agree it's too severe.

  • Bruce Godfrey

    From the opinion:

    “On the same day the $4,000 advanced fee was received, respondent deposited $2,000 of the advanced fee into his personal account and the remaining $2,000 into his trust account. This resulted in a trust account balance of $2,312.83 at the end of that day. On July 29, 2008, respondent withdrew $802.98 from his trust account, leaving a balance of only $1,509.85. And on August 3, respondent gave the attorney with whom he said he would work on the criminal matter a $2,000 check drawn on the trust account. At the time he received this check, the attorney had not yet earned a fee in that amount.” – In short, aggressive overdraft of client trust money after pocketing $2K before doing one shred of work.

  • Eric Cooperstein

    I agree it’s a harsh result but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a career-ender. Many attorneys do recover from suspensions, even when the suspension is six-months or longer. I have found that clients and colleagues can be surprisingly forgiving where the attorney is otherwise of good character, fully owns up to the misconduct, and can keep his nose clean while suspended.

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  • Carolyn Elefant

    @Eric – It's good to know that lawyers rebound from suspensions. In this case, I think it's justified

    Also, just a general clarification – I don't mean to completely trivialize the violations. Lawyers are on notice of the importance of proper trust accounting. I just felt that the penalty here was too severe – in my view, a reprimand and education on trust accounting would have sufficed assuming these were first time offenses (there's no indication in the court decision on this point one way or another)

  • Leeturner

    I agree absolutely no draconian! How was anyone hurt?

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