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Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 8816
Attorney Name Smith, Stephen S.
DBP Docket No. 130 DB 1997
Supreme Court Docket No. 682 D.D. No. 3
County Delaware
Disciplinary Counsel Harold E. Ciampoli, Jr.
Counsel for Respondent James C. Schwartzman
Decision Date 2001-06-28
Effective Date 2001-07-28
Case Digest Respondent was appointed administrator d.b.n.c.t.a. of an estate in October 1991. In June 1994, Respondentís personal residence was the subject of a mortgage foreclosure action. Respondent intentionally converted $37,000 of the Hafer Estate and used those funds to avoid foreclosure. Approximately five months later Respondent converted for his personal use an additional $4000 from the Estate. At the Disciplinary Hearing , Respondent testified that at the time of the conversion of the estate funds, he was under severe financial burdens, including a mortgage foreclosure and college payments. After Hearing and after Petitioner had filed its Brief, Respondent filed a Petition to Reopen the Record to allow him to present additional evidence relating to an alleged psychiatric condition. The motion was granted and an additional hearing was conducted in which each party presented the testimony of a psychiatrist. Both the Hearing Committee and the Board found that Respondent had met his burden as set forth in ODC v. Braun that a psychiatric disorder (major depressive disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder) had caused the misconduct. The Supreme Court by order of June 28, 2001 concurred with the recommendation of the Hearing Committee and the Board and suspended Respondent for five years.
Rule Violation(s) RPC 1.15(a) ; 1.15(b) ; 8.4(c)
Discipline Imposed Five year suspension
Points of Law Where a lawyer has converted estate funds to his personal benefit, but has shown in mitigation that his misconduct resulted from a psychiatric condition, he will be suspended for five years rather than disbarred.
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