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Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 60295
Attorney Name Welkey , Lisa Anne
DBP Docket No. 132 DB 2009
Supreme Court Docket No. 1718 DD No. 3
County Luzerne
Disciplinary Counsel John Francis Dougherty
Counsel for Respondent Gerald Lord
Decision Date 2011-07-20
Effective Date 2011-08-19
Case Digest Ms. Welkey was charged with three Counts of misconduct, the major of which involved her conversions in 2004 and early 2005 of a total of about $43,000 due the PA Department of Welfare from an estate. She made repeated misrepresentations to the Executor, DPW, and Disciplinary Counsel that the funds had been paid over in early 2005. She finally made restitution in September 2009, after a Petition for Discipline was served. From late 2002 until September 2009, when her IOLTA account was closed, the account was always out-of-trust, at times in excess of $50,000. In one instance, she received about $6,000 that was payable in part to a medical provider, with the balance to her client. The funds were converted to other uses. Welkey ignored numerous inquiries from her client about payment to the provider, which refused to provide additional treatment until paid. When checks were finally written to the provider and the client they both caused overdrafts in the IOLTA account, which were covered by other funds. The bank failed to report the overdrafts. The IOLTA account records reflected insufficient balances relative to numerous clients. Welkey’s testimony about when she first knew about problems in her IOLTA account was found to not be credible, as was her testimony concerning when she first knew about DPW having not received the funds due from the estate. It was found that Welkey knew the IOLTA account was out of trust in 2002 until the account was closed in September 2009, and that she could have easily determined the nature of the problems in the account, even after her estranged husband had taken the financial records for the IOLTA account. A second Count involved the representation of a mother and a daughter, residents of Pennsylvania, for personal injuries sustained in a 2002 automobile accident in Georgia. The essence of the Count was that Welkey proceeded inappropriately and hid that fact from her clients for over two years, with numerous misrepresentations to the clients. Welkey had filed suit in federal court asserting the Georgia defendant could be sued in Pennsylvania because his insurer did business in Pennsylvania. The case was soon dismissed on a motion for summary judgment. Welkey appealed and the lower court was affirmed in January 2006. She failed to advise her clients of the dismissal of their case, or of the appeal. They only learned of the dismissal after demanding their file a year after the dismissal. Welkey then told them that she would initiate suit in Georgia, and then that a hearing was scheduled there in September 2007. The clients thought a suit was filed until after they filed a complaint concerning Welkey’s failures to respond to their inquiries, and Disciplinary Counsel told them that nothing had, or then could, be filed. In the third Count, Welkey failed to properly maintain costs in trust, and failed to provide her client with the file and an accounting, as suggested by Disciplinary Counsel. She timely turned over the file, but as of the hearing held several months later she had still not provided an accounting. Welkey testified to ongoing personal problems and the resultant detrimental effects on her practice. Her husband was her office manager and after they separated in 2005 she found that he had taken substantially all of her financial records, which records she never tried to reconstruct as to the IOLTA account. Her testimony was, in important respects, contrary to the Stipulations, the substance of which she acknowledged was negotiated and in which she had been fully involved with her counsel. She had been admitted in 1990 and had a record of one prior Informal Admonition for a failure to proceed appropriately and adequately communicate with her client.
Rule Violation(s) .1; 1.2(a); 1.4(a), 1.4(a)(4), and 1.4(b); 1.7(a); 1.15(a) 1.15(b) 8.4(b); and, 8.4(c).
Discipline Imposed Suspension for three years
Points of Law An attorney who misuses fiduciary funds, especially over a long period of time and involving numerous clients, will be subjected to substantial discipline. Personal problems affecting an attorney’s practice, as well as meaningful cooperation with Disciplinary Counsel, may serve to mitigate the extent of the discipline imposed.
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