In class, we often discuss whether the cases we read resulted in a proper sanction and we also discuss how inconsistent courts often are when imposing sanctions. A new case reported by the Legal Profession Blog caught my eye that illustrates the issue.
In this case, the court imposed a suspension of no less than three years for numerous and varied acts of misconduct that included "engaging in a pattern of incompetent representation, neglect, failure to communicate with clients, and failure to return unearned fees; failing to properly supervise a non-lawyer assistant and take reasonable steps to prevent the known misconduct of this assistant that resulted in the theft of client funds; failing to safeguard client funds and maintain all trust-account related records; representing a client with a conflict of interest; and failing to cooperate in multiple disciplinary investigations." In addition, there were multiple aggravating factors and no mitigating factors. The overwhelming majority of the 24 clients harmed by the lawyer's misconduct were immigrants facing immigration proceedings who made significant sacrifices to save the necessary funds to retain him and for most of whom the lawyer performed nominal or no work.
A dissenting judge argued the conduct deserved disbarment.