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Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 48547
Attorney Name Roe, Kenneth J.
DBP Docket No. 64 DB 1998
Supreme Court Docket No. 461 D.D. No. 3
County Susquehanna
Disciplinary Counsel Edwin R. Frownfelter
Counsel for Respondent None
Decision Date 2003-07-30
Effective Date 2003-08-29
Case Digest Attorney Roe took fee payments from four clients during a period of six months prior to his suspension, but failed to take any action to pursue the clients’ cases. He also allowed his trust account to fall out of trust and eventually be overdrawn due to a withdrawal he made against a check deposited to the account, which was subsequently dishonored. Since he had not performed service to earn the fees paid by clients, the fees were found to have been converted when the account was overdrawn. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel was notified of the overdraft through the mandatory overdraft reporting system, and issued a subpoena against Attorney Roe requiring him to produce financial records. When Attorney Roe failed to do so, he was temporarily suspended under the terms of Pa. R.D.E. 208(f)(5). Upon his suspension, Attorney Roe closed his law office and left the Commonwealth. He did not leave any information by which he could be contacted and took no steps to notify clients of his suspension, to return their files or transfer them to another attorney, or to refund fees he had been paid for services he had not performed. A conservator was appointed to open his office, take possession of files, and distribute them to clients. Attorney Roe was served by substituted service under Pa. R.D.E. 212 and did not participate in or defend the disciplinary inquiry.
Rule Violation(s) Pa.R.P.C. 1.5(a); 1.15(a); 1.15(b); 1.16(d); 8.1(a); 8.4(b); 8.4(c); 8.4(d); Pa.R.D.E. 217(a); 217(b); 217(c); 217(e); 219(d)(3)
Discipline Imposed Disbarment
Points of Law Where a lawyer has received fees for services not performed, and allows his trust account to be overdrawn, an inference will be made that the unearned fees have been converted. Where a lawyer has committed misconduct, has closed his practice and left no means by which he can be contacted, and has failed to refund unearned fees or to transfer files of clients to successor counsel, disbarment is the appropriate sanction.
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