Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss recent Indiana Supreme Court opinion suspending a lawyer for six months with all but sixty days stayed for using his trust account for personal and client-related expenses after the IRS placed a lien on his personal account. The case is In the Matter of Jacob P. Dunnuck, Supreme Court Cause No. 18S00-1201-DI-2 (12/7/12). The opinion is available online at: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2012-18s00-1201-di-2.pdf.
According to the opinion and the stipulated facts, during the years 2010 and 2011, the lawyer kept both client funds and personal funds in his trust account as a result of the Internal Revenue Service’s lien on his personal checking account. On February 20, 2011, the lawyer wrote a check from his trust account to the Indiana Bar’s Commission for Continuing Legal Education, which notified the Disciplinary Commission of the apparent improper use of the trust account. The lawyer later removed $3,200.00 from his trust account on April 21, 2011, apparently believing that they were his personal funds and that there were sufficient funds to cover the withdrawal; however, the withdrawal resulted in an overdraft of $22.48, which the lawyer covered the day after he was notified of the overdraft. In a Conditional Agreement, the lawyer and the Bar stipulated that the lawyer violated Indiana Bar Rule 1.15(a), which requires a lawyer to hold property of a client separate from the lawyer’s own property.
The opinion adopted the Conditional Agreement and suspended the lawyer from the practice of law for six months, beginning on January 21, 2013, with 60 days of actual suspension and the remaining 4 months stayed subject to the lawyer’s successful completion of at least one year of probation pursuant to the terms and conditions set forth in the Conditional Agreement, which included completion of a continuing legal education course on trust fund management, submitting his trust fund to audit by an independent certified public accountant, and submitting quarterly audit reports to the Commission. In addition, if the lawyer violates his probation, he will be required to serve the remaining suspension with automatic reinstatement and additional discipline may be imposed if he violates his probation.
Bottom line: Lawyers should not use their trust account to hold their own personal funds in order to avoid an IRS lien.
Be careful out there!
Disclaimer: this Ethics Alert blog does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670