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Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 7068
Attorney Name Gross, William M.
DBP Docket No. 57 & 58 DB 2000
Supreme Court Docket No. 605 DD No. 3
County Dauphin
Disciplinary Counsel Joseph J. Huss
Counsel for Respondent Edgar R. Casper
Decision Date 2003-12-23
Effective Date 2004-01-22
Case Digest Respondent was charged with converting real estate settlement funds in connection with 14 real estate settlements in which he was involved either as counsel to the buyer, settlement agent, or both. Specifically, he collected real estate settlement funds, in a fiduciary capacity, for the purpose of disbursing the funds to pay customary obligations such as title insurance premiums, property taxes, transfer taxes, and recording fees. However, he failed to promptly pay these obligations, and failed to maintain the collected funds. Instead, he spent the funds for purposes unrelated to the real estate settlements, ultimately repaying the money with personal funds or funds belonging to unrelated clients/third parties. In two of these matters, Respondentís failure to pay collected property taxes resulted in the buyers being contacted, more than a year after settlement, by taxing authorities about a possible public sale because of outstanding taxes which the buyers thought had long since been paid. In one matter, Respondent also failed to record the deed into the buyer. As a result, Respondent was found to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.15(a), 1.15(b), and 8.4(c). Note that Respondentís disciplinary culpability was found to exist irrespective of the specific role he was playing in connection with the settlements (see Rule of Professional Conduct 5.7, which was pled in the Petition for Discipline.) Disciplinary Counsel subpoenaed various financial records in furtherance of its investigation. Respondent failed to comply with one such subpoena, resulting in his suspension pursuant to PaRDE 208(f)(5) effective July 14, 2000. This conduct was also found to be in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1(a) and 8.4(d). Despite his July 2000 suspension, Respondent continued to hold himself out as an attorney through the conclusion of the disciplinary hearings in March 2001, which was viewed as an aggravating circumstance. It was also found as a fact that he failed to cooperate with the Lawyers Fund for Client Security, and with Disciplinary Counselís investigation. Respondent argued that various health problems, his lack of a prior disciplinary record over 40 years, and his involvement in numerous civic/professional activities, constituted mitigating circumstances. The Disciplinary Board, with one dissent for a 5 year suspension, recommended disbarment to the Supreme Court. By order dated December 23, 2003, the Court disbarred Respondent retroactive to March 14, 2001, with 3 dissents for a retroactive 5 year suspension.
Rule Violation(s) RPCs 1.3, 1.15(a)& (b), 8.1(a), 8.4(c)&(d)
Discipline Imposed Disbarment
Points of Law An attorney is subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct (see RPC 5.7) when he participates in a real estate settlement as counsel to one of the parties, or as settlement agent, or both.
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