Law School Case Brief
Iowa Supreme Court Bd. of Prof'l Ethics & Conduct v. Jones - 606 N.W.2d 5 (Iowa 2000)
Iowa Code of Professional Conduct D.R. 1-102(A)(4) provides that a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving misrepresentation.
Respondent attorney Oscar E. Jones persuaded his former client, Delbert Jones, to loan $5000 to respondent’s current client, Leon Currie. In persuading Delbert, respondent did not disclose the fact that the banks and other individuals had refused to loan money since the purpose of the loan was for a risky Nigerian transaction. Respondent further failed to disclose that Currie was in poor financial condition. The Iowa Supreme Court Board of Professional Ethics and Conduct then filed a complaint against Jones, alleging misconduct on his part arising out of the $ 5000 debt that Delbert incurred. The complaint charged that Jones had violated Iowa Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers, DR 1-102(A)(4) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving misrepresentation); DR 1-102(A)(6) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct reflecting adversely on fitness to practice law); and DR 7-102(A)(7) (lawyer shall not counsel or assist client in conduct that lawyer knows to be illegal or fraudulent). The Grievance Commission found that at the time of requesting the loan, there was no evidence that respondent knew that the Nigerian transaction was fraudulent. The Commission therefore concluded that the Board had not proven a violation of DR 7-102(A)(7). However, the Commission did find that Jones' actions and omissions in obtaining the $ 5000 loan from Delbert constituted a misrepresentation. The Commission therefore concluded that the Board had proven a violation of DR 1-102(A)(4) and DR 1-102(A)(6). The Commission recommended a public reprimand. Although respondent did not appeal the recommendations, the Court reviewed the record de novo pursuant to Iowa Sup.Ct. R. 118.10.
- Did respondent attorney violate the Iowa Code of Professional Conduct?
- Was public reprimand the proper disciplinary action for respondent’s violations?
The Court held that respondent's misstatements and omissions in persuading the former client to loan money to the current client, while not fraudulent, constituted misrepresentation, under D.R. 1-102(A)(4), and reflected adversely on respondent's fitness to practice law, under D.R. 1-102(A)(6). As such, respondent should be disciplined for his actions. However, the Court disagreed with the Commission’s recommendation of public reprimand, and averred that based on respondent's past discipline and the harm caused, suspension was the appropriate discipline. The Court further ordered restitution as a condition for reinstatement.
As for the applicable standards: The Board of Professional Ethics & Conduct must prove its allegations of lawyer misconduct by a convincing preponderance of evidence. This burden of proof is greater than in a civil case but less than in a criminal case of review. The Supreme Court of Iowa reviews a Grievance Commission record de novo.
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