Thursday, February 26, 2009

Should misappropriation result in automatic disbarment?

Mike Frisch, of the Legal Profession Blog, reports today that a case decided today by a division of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals imposes disbarment in a matter where the attorney had deliberately taken his fee from a modest estate without required court authority. In its report (which is attached to the court's decision), the Board expressed concern that disbarment might be too harsh a sanction but acknowleged that it had to follow a strict rule virtually mandating disbarment in all case of intentional or reckless misappropriation adopted by the court in In re Addams (1990). In today's decision, one of the judges urges reconsideration of the Addams decision. He views the holding as a "vitually non-rebuttable" disbarment presumption that fails to provide a meaningful case-by-case sanction analysis.

I have no problem with the old rule. I have no sympathy for lawyers who intentionally misappropriate funds. Whether it is $5 or $5 million, if you steal money from your client, you should be disbarred. Period.

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