Lawyer Suspended for Failing to Disclose During Mediation That His Client Was Dead

dead-man-mdThe District of Columbia Court of Appeals suspended Kenneth H. Rosenau from the practice of law for a period of thirty days for failing to disclose the death of his client at a settlement mediation. See In re Kennth H. Rosenau, No. 16-BG-35 (D.C. Ct. App. Mar. 3, 2016). Rule 8.4 prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” or in conduct “that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” See D.C. Rules of Prof’l Cond. R. 8.4(c-d); La. Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 8.4(c-d). The court found the respondent’s silence in this regard to constitute a “misrepresentation” and one that “seriously interfered with the administration of justice.”

The Louisiana Supreme Court has suspended lawyers for similar misconduct. In the matter of In Re Warner, 851 So. 2d 1029 (La. 2003), the court suspended a lawyer for a year and a day for acting with “fraudulent intent” in settling a case more than a month after his client’s death. Likewise, in the matter of In re Welcker, 694 So. 2d 918 (La. 1997), the court disbarred a lawyer who settled a case without notifying the tortfeasor of the death of his client. The lawyer then failed to disclose the settlement to the decedent’s heirs, but instead, “endorsed or caused to be endorsed the name of his deceased client, . . . deposited the funds into his client trust account.”

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