Saturday, March 25, 2006

Order of the Kneepads update: Nebraska Supreme Court suspends Kenyan attorney in subsequent disciplinary actions with credit for time served beyon preceding suspension but Supree Court disbars Lincoln attorney for simple neglect of casesState ex rel. Counsel for Dis. v. Muia, S-04-1375, S-05-1115, 271 Neb. 287 HTML State ex rel. Counsel for Dis. v. Coe, S-05-744, 271 Neb. 319 HTML Another puzzling set of attorney discipline cases from the Nebraska Supreme court. Attorney Muia already suspended for neglgecting a case and not notifying the client until the eve of the statute of limitations date for the clients case was suspended for 4 months in November 2003. Following his suspension, the attorney failed to notify all clients who had accident settlement funds in the attorneys trust account. The attorney also failed to promptly turn over a clients file on a child support case prejudicing her claim. finally the counsel for discipline charged the attorney with mishandling a business partnership with a client. The counsel for discpline charged attorney Coe with neglectging several casea and failing to respond to discplinary grivances. The attorney did not answer the formal charges and the Supreme Court disbars him. Muia's intial suspension in case ##State ex rel. Counsel for Dis. v. Muia, 266 Neb. 970, 670 N.W.2d 635 (2003) occurred before the effective date of revised Disciplinary Rule 16, which now requires most discplined attorneys to close their trust accounts within 30 days, in addition to notifying clients of their lost licenses. The court gets around this finding that DR2-110 applies to suspended attorneys withdrawing from employment, which would require suspended/disbarred attorneys to turn over client funds in their trust accounts, including funds intended for medical providers. Interestingly, Muia could have been charged with contempt for not notifying all clients of his suspension, but the counsel for discipline did not charge this. The Supreme court spends most of its time justifying a suspension retroactive to the Muiua's original suspenseions ending datge. And then allows reinstatement to the Kenyan attorney as soon as he can establish a probationary program. Coe was not so fortunate. Although he failed for several months to respond to teh counsel for discipline's grievances from five clients, he ultimately answered them after the counsel for discpline requested a temporary suspension, which the counsel for discipline withdrew. Coe did not respond to the formal charges. Rule9D requires a member to make a written response to grievances the counsel for discipline believes merit investigation. Rule 10 merely states that the respondent "shal" answer the formal charges within 30 days, as he would in any civil matter. The Supreme Court finds that neglect and failure to answer the charges warrants disbarment.
Here, Coe violated several disciplinary rules and his oath of office as an attorney, to his clients' detriment. Although the record contains some evidence concerning mental illness, Coe has ultimately failed to respond to the formal charges. We have previously disbarred attorneys who, like Coe, neglected their clients' cases and failed to cooperate with the Counsel during the disciplinary proceedings. See, e.g., State ex rel. Counsel for Dis. v. Jones, 270 Neb. 471, 704 N.W.2d 216 (2005). In particular, a pattern of neglect reveals a particular need for a strong sanction to deter others from similar misconduct, to maintain the reputation of the bar as a whole, and to protect the public. See State ex rel. NSBA v. Johnston, 251 Neb. 468, 558 N.W.2d 53 (1997). The record shows that Coe is either unable or unwilling to respond to the charges and that through a pattern of neglect, he is not fit to practice law.

We have considered the undisputed allegations of the formal charges and the applicable law. Upon consideration, we find that Coe should be disbarred from the practice of law in the State of Nebraska.

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