Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Kansas Supreme Court disciplinary opinion which disbarred a lawyer for, inter alia, entering into a contingent fee agreement with a domestic relations client, engaging in a sexual relationship with a client, converting and commingling client property and committing other trust account violations, providing a court with a false billing statement, and being convicted of misdemeanor criminal charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The opinion is In the Matter of Steven C. Alberg, No. 108,649 (February 22, 2013) and is at https://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2013/20130222/108649.pdf.
According to the opinion, “(t)he hearing panel recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of 2 years and that before reinstatement, he be required to provide evidence from his treatment provider that he is currently mentally and emotionally fit to practice law. At the hearing before this court, at which the respondent appeared, the office of the Disciplinary Administrator recommended that respondent be disbarred from the practice of law. Respondent recommended that he be censured with such censure published in the Kansas Reports.”
The Kansas Supreme Court rejected the panel’s recommendation of a 2 year suspension and imposed disbarment stating “…respondent’s violations are significant, repeated, and numerous, and include entering into a contingent fee agreement in a domestic relations case…; engaging in a sexual relationship with a client…thereby creating a substantial risk that representation of the client would be materially limited;…converting and commingling client property…; repeatedly failing to provide an accounting of client’s funds held in respondent’s client trust account…; providing the court with a billing statement containing numerous false entries…; and committing criminal acts reflecting directly on the respondent’s fitness as a lawyer in other respects…” (citations omitted).
Also according to the opinion, “(a)t oral argument in this case, respondent demonstrated no real perception of the significance of his numerous violations of the rules of professional conduct. Nor did he fully accept responsibility for his violations, instead describing himself as “a white knight” who allowed himself to be led by his heart. Respondent’s inability to understand or take responsibility for the nature and breadth of his professional misconduct underscores the significance of the misconduct and engenders our decision that disbarment from practice is the appropriate sanction.”
Bottom line: This lawyer apparently believed that he was a “white knight” for his client and that he was being “led by his heart”; however, it appears that his “heart” ultimately led him to his disbarment. I am not making this up!
Be careful out there!
Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
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