Disbarred Attorneys, Discovery, Ethical Misconduct, Frivolous Motions, Legal Profession Prof Blog, Mike Frisch, Probate, Sanctions
Brother Can You Spare A Disbarment? by Mike Frisch, Legal Profession Prof Blog
The Washington State Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney for misconduct in connection with the administration of his mother’s estate.
The attorney was appointed as personal representative on his mother’s death in 1995. He lived with her at the time of her death and had his law office in her home.
The estate was to be equally divided between him and his three brothers.
The court affirmed findings that the attorney had engaged in frivolous motions and appeals, ignored discovery obligations and mis-valued estate assets.
In this case, the hearing officer reasonably concluded from the evidence presented at the hearing that Jones filed frivolous motions and appeals that harmed his brothers and the administration of justice. Jones filed numerous motions and appeals in the trial court, the Court of Appeals, and this court. Each motion was denied, and sanctions were awarded against Jones. Because Jones received sanctions, the hearing officer reasonably concluded that Jones was put on notice of the frivolous nature of his motions before refiling and appealing them. Like in Sanai, the hearing officer did not rely solely on a particular judicial ruling, but rather used judicial decisions as evidence that Jones filed repetitive frivolous motions that resulted in sanctions. The hearing officer’s conclusions were additionally supported by the testimony of six witnesses, resulting in over 1,500 pages of transcripts, as well as nearly 200 exhibits.
The court found seven aggravating factors including refusal to acknowledge the ethical violations
Jones argues that the record does not support refusal to acknowledge because he is not required to agree with the charges made or to confess. However, the aggravating factor of refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of conduct was correctly applied. Jones continued to file motions, lawsuits, and appeals even after being sanctioned numerous times for the frivolous nature of such filings. By receiving sanctions, Jones was aware of his RPC violations but persisted with his conduct.
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