||Respondent admitted that he misappropriated $8,850.00 from a contingent fee settlement that he had obtained on behalf of a client. Respondent used the funds to pay personal or other expenses not related to his representation of the client and without the client’s knowledge or consent. He also relocated his office without notifying his client. Respondent did not make full restitution until twenty months after distribution of the funds was due. The Disciplinary Board noted that Respondent’s “misappropriation, conversion and theft of client funds constitute egregious violations of the professional rules.”
Respondent also provided substantial evidence of a cocaine addiction, entitling him to mitigation under Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Braun, 553 A.2d 894 (Pa. 1989). Respondent had used the client’s funds to purchase cocaine. Respondent presented evidence at the disciplinary hearing establishing that he was currently sober and had made positive changes in his life. At the time of the disciplinary hearing, Respondent had been sober for almost three years.
Disciplinary Counsel and Respondent jointly recommended to the Hearing Committee that Respondent be suspended for five years, with the suspension stayed in its entirety, and also recommended that Respondent be placed on probation consisting of sobriety and practice monitoring for five years. The Disciplinary Board agreed with the recommendation, noting that “this is a very clear cut case of an attorney’s drug addiction dictating the attorney’s misconduct.” The Board noted that “[t]he system of monitoring and support by the sobriety monitor will ensure that Respondent’s chances for long term recovery are increased, while at the same time decreasing the likelihood of relapse. The goal of protecting the public is met by setting forth mechanisms to monitor Respondent’s ongoing efforts at maintaining sobriety.”
By Order dated July 8, 2004, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania suspended Respondent for five years. The suspension was stayed in its entirety. Respondent was placed on probation for five years, consisting of sobriety and practice monitoring.