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Recent Disbarment Stories You Won't Believe

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on December 10, 2015 5:59 AM

Everybody loves to read about lawyer screw-ups. Sometimes they can be pretty run-of-the-mill and even mundane ethics breaches like co-mingling of funds. But sometimes they can be pretty emotionally provocative.

Here is a pair of recent cases that are, if nothing else, entertaining.

"Do You Touch Little Boys?"

Some lawyers get on the bad side of ethics by making outrageous accusations about people based on nothing more than their idiocy. While conducting a deposition, Marc Kurzman, a Minnesota lawyer, began a line of questioning in impeachment style that strongly suggested that a parenting consultant had been accused of inappropriate sexual contact with minors.

Fortunately, the deponent called Kurzman's bluff and asked to see documentation supporting such allegations. Kurzman had nothing.

Kurzman was already under the microscope for ethics violations in another case. Court records indicate that Kurzman committed "serious misconduct" that had been part of a "pattern." He had already been reprimanded by the court 10 times, received numerous private admonitions, and will serve probation for his behavior.

Client Fund Dipping for "Spot Bonuses"

Indiana ex-lawyer David Steele took his client's $150,000 in unearned retainer fees and started handing them out to employees as "spot bonuses." That probably by itself would have been enough to justify disbarment.

But it gets better. The Indiana Supreme Court's opinion also lists a number of violations that almost sound too comical too be true. Steele encouraged his employees to "lie to all comers," disclosed client confidences and mocked them for his own amusement, bought good reviews online, and retaliated against clients who wrote negative reviews against him with defamatory remarks.

What else? Where to start? By the time he depleted his client's funds, he then attempted to cook his books by telling his employees to inflate hours and tasks. He lied to opposing counsel in telling them that he was in a hospital watching a loved one pass away, that he just lost his dog, and that an employee was fired for having sex in the office. When he fired another employee, he pulled a gun on them. Yeah, he's a real charmer.

"There can be no doubt in these circumstances that disbarment is warranted," Indiana's Supreme Court said. "The seriousness, scope, and sheer brazenness of [Steele's] misconduct is outrageous."

We admit: this one does seem to to jump to the top percentiles of brazenness.

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