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Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Attorney Discipline | 0 comments

ODC v. Quigley: Misuse of IOLTA funds warrants disbarment

Quigley was an attorney with a “generally good reputation as a good trial attorney.” However, Mr. Quigley began to have money problems. Other difficulties arose, including when an ad in the phonebook was printed with the wrong phone number, and business dried up. He misused IOLTA funds from five clients over three years, and the Court rules that he is disbarred.

Majority by Mundy: Misuse of client funds warrants disbarment

Justice Mundy, writing for the majority, concludes, “The misuse of client funds in five separate matters, over three years by Quigley has compromised the integrity of the legal profession to a degree which warrants the sanction of disbarment.”

A psychologist was called to testify that Mr. Quigley should have been diagnosed several years ago with depression and mild post-traumatic stress disorder. However, evidence was adduced that Quigley’s misbehavior regarding the IOLTA account began well before any psychological disturbances arose. Therefore, “Quigley failed to demonstrate a causal connection between his misconduct and a psychiatric disorder sufficient to constitute a lesser disciplinary sanction in this matter.”

Furthermore, other mitigating factors offered by Quigley were rejected by the majority. Yes, Quigley paid back four of his five defrauded clients in full—but only after the instigation of disciplinary proceedings. Yes, he may not have had intent to defraud them—but mistakes in an IOLTA account are strict liability, and the vast disparities in the amounts in the account show he was wildly reckless at the very least in the maintenance of his account.

Dissent by Donohue: Disbarment was unnecessary in this case

It’s always surprising to see a dissent in an ODC case. The Supreme Court likes to present a united front regarding its regulation of the profession. But as Justice Donohue argues, the Court must also punish similar conduct consistently. Pointing to similar cases in the Court’s attorney disciplinary jurisprudence, Donohue argues that this case should not have resulted in disbarment. She also points out the purpose of the disciplinary oversight of the Court.

“Disbarment is an extreme sanction properly reserved for only the most egregious matters, as it constitutes a termination of the privilege to practice law without any promise of ultimate reinstatement.” Donohue would have preferred that the Court temporarily suspend Quigley, allowing him to make a recovery as to any psychological concerns and then be readmitted.

Justice Wecht joined this dissent.

Conclusion

These cases are never fun to write about, but they serve as a warning to all attorneys to carefully manage our practices and IOLTA accounts, and to be above repute in these matters. It’s heartbreaking to see a talented trial attorney lose his license over ethical abuses, but it happens all too frequently. Hopefully Mr. Quigley will be able to get his life straightened out and after the five-year moratorium passes, successfully reapply to the practice of law.

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