The Legal Profession blog is reporting today on a case with an interesting set of facts: An attorney was retained and paid a $10,000 non-refundable retainer for a criminal case. A few days later, the client committed suicide. At the time, the attorney had done no more than five hours of work on the case. The client's widow sought a refund. The attorney refused, "asserting that he had earned the entire amount." The attorney refunded the fee during the ensuing disciplinary proceeding.
Based on these facts, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered a suspension of 30 days for charging an excessive fee and failure to return an unearned fee. The court found that restitution after a grievance is filed "does not qualify as a mitigating circumstance." The court's order is available here.
I have no problem with the court's decision. The conduct was unethical and the refund was provided too late. My question is whether the sanction was adequate. I have often posted comments about this. What makes the conduct worth a one month suspension, as opposed to a two month suspension, for example?
I think a one month suspension is too lenient in this case, but I am not sure what would be appropriate. What do you think? I guess the way to find an answer is to research the law of the state to see if there are other similar cases.