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Here's some schadenfreude for tax day: Former IRS ethics lawyer Takisha Brown has been disbarred by the D.C. Court of Appeals (not the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals) for ethics violations and misappropriating client funds.
Brown withdrew money from a settlement payment meant to go towards a client's medical bills following an automobile accident. Of course, it wasn't just the crime, it was the cover up that landed Brown in hot water.
A Basic Ethics Lesson, Failed by an Ethics Lawyer
The debacle began when Brown agreed to represent Rue Gordon, a relative of Brown's husband, who had been injured in a car crash. A settlement was made for just under $9,000. Under her agreement with Gordon, Brown was to take a third as her fee and pay Gordon's doctors' bills from the rest. Brown put the money in a client trust account, showing she was at least familiar with the ethical obligation to safeguard client funds. She didn't seem to give to rule much weight though, removing almost all the funds shortly afterward. Much of the money went to Gordon, but almost none went to her doctors.
Brown made matters worse when she responded to Gordon's complaint to the D.C. bar association. Brown blamed the lost cash on her husband, a story the hearing committee did not believe. The committee found that she had intentionally misappropriated client funds, commingled funds, and recklessly misrepresented the situation to her client and the doctors. They did not find her pregnancy, marital difficulties, or eventual payment of the medical bills to be mitigating factors and recommended that she be disbarred.
You Know It's Bad When Congressmen Think You're Unethical
Brown's ethics troubles weren't limited to her treatment of Gordon's funds, either. She was also subject to an investigation after she allegedly lost government files while working for the IRS, something that drew the attention of two senior members of the House Oversight Committee, according to The Washington Times. She allegedly left the files on a party bus during a trip to Atlantic City.
Brown's story should serve as a reminder that no lawyer, especially not an ethics lawyer, should use client funds as their own personal piggy bank. Also, don't finish that brief as you booze your way to the Vegas of New Jersey.
Brown's actions weren't the most egregious at the IRS, though. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a speech last week that the service will start taking actions against employees who -- get this -- refuse to pay their taxes.