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Kansas Supreme Court considers six attorney ethics cases

By   /   September 21, 2009  /   1 Comment

Kansas Supreme Court

Kansas Supreme Court

Topeka.  Today the Kansas Supreme Court had a “Disciplinary Docket” and reviewed ethics complaints against six attorneys.

Earlier in the year the Office of Disciplinary Administrator held reviews of complaints against these attorneys and today gave the state’s high court its recommendations on the appropriate penalty.

In the matter of …

Wendell Betts. Justices Marla Luckert and Eric Rosen recused themselves during this hearing.

The charge against Betts was that he failed to provide insurance information and had forged insurance cards for which he was fined and sentenced in 2007. This case did not involve an attorney-client relationship. Betts took responsibility for and apologized to the court for his actions.

Depending on how serious the court finds his wrong doing, Betts could have his law license suspended for 6-12 months, or possibly only face public censure in the Kansas Reports, the official publication of the Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

William J. Hunsaker.  Justice Lawton Nuss recused himself in this case.

This was a reciprocal discipline case based on action taken in Colorado. Hunsaker had helped his son financially after his son had fled prosecution in Colorado on sexual assault charges. Hunsaker’s son was also an attorney in Colorado and had already ben disbarred.

Colorado case:

Respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice when he deposited approximately $34,000 into his son’s checking account while his son was on the run from law enforcement authorities. This conduct arguably allowed respondent’s son to avoid criminal prosecution for a period of time. Respondent’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 8.4(d).

Hunsaker was excused from a personal appearance for health reasons. Justice Lee Johnson challenged Hunsaker’s attorney’s statement that Hunsaker had not violated the law by helping his son financially.

Hunsaker has never practiced in Kansas, and has no plans to do so, but the recommended penalty was the same as in Colorado: suspension of license for 90 days.

Todd A McGraw. This ethics case was triggered by McGraw’s felony conviction in Missouri for possession of illegal drugs. The recommended action was suspension of his license retroactive to 2007. McGraw apologized to the court for his previous actions. McGraw said he had never practiced in Kansas and didn’t plan to, but was considering re-applying in Missouri. McGraw admitted to the court that his actions had hurt the legal profession and his family. McGraw asked the court to accept the recommendations of the Disciplinary Administrator.

Phillip Kent Weber. Weber failed to appear at the review by the Disciplinary Administrator and failed to appear before the Supreme Court today. Weber had been disbarred by the Missouri Supreme Court in Feb 2005 for abandoning a client, taking a fee, and doing no work. After questions from the justices about how the recommendations might change if Weber had been cooperative, it was clear the recommendation was to suspend Mr. Weber law license indefinitely even if he had cooperated.

James Andrew Cline. The Disciplinary Administrator told the high court that Cline had violated 9 separate rules with 4 separate clients. Cline apologized to the court and pressed for a probationary plan that had been proposed instead of a one year suspension of his license.

Justice Lawton Nuss asked Cline’s attorney how one shows one is no longer dishonest with evidence that is persuasive. The attorney’s response was to appear before a panel and convince them of sincerity and change.

Stanley M. Kenny. The Kenny case centered around letters he had written, which had been interpreted by some to be threatening. The letters had to do with the return of payment in exchange for not filing a complaint against him. Kenny claimed his intent was not to be threatening, but Justice Johnson seemed to see little difference between a “threat” and an “ultimatum.” Kenny said his words had been interpreted more harshly than he intended. Kenny preferred a one-year probationary and supervised period, instead of suspension of his license.

Cases under advisement.  The court made no decisions today and took all cases under advisement with decisions in the future. 

Slow Processing by the Disciplinary Board. The McGraw and Weber cases were “old” and should have been brought to the Supreme Court months ago. Several of the Justices quizzed the Deputy Disciplinary Administrator why the cases were only now being brought. The explanation was that one of the investigators became ill and resigned. The justices didn’t seem to understand why that should cause a delay of 18 month so more.

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