ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE
This is an uncontested, original proceeding in discipline filed by the office of the Disciplinary Administrator against David R. Alig, an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Kansas since April 1996. Previously, in 1979, Respondent was admitted to the practice of law in the state of Missouri. Alig's last registration address with the Clerk of the Appellate Courts of Kansas is Overland Park, Kansas.
The formal complaint as originally filed alleged Alig violated KRPC 1.1, 1.5, and 8.4. In his answer to the formal complaint, Respondent stipulated to violating these three rules. Near the conclusion of the panel hearing on this matter, the Disciplinary Administrator moved to amend the formal complaint to include a violation of KRPC 5.5. Respondent had no objection. The Disciplinary Administrator recommended published censure, and the Respondent concurred.
Based on its findings of fact and the stipulations of Respondent, the hearing panel concluded as a matter of law that Respondent violated four rules of professional conduct: KRPC 1.1 (2006 Kan Ct. R. Annot. 358) (competent representation), KRPC 1.5(a) (2006 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 401) (reasonable lawyer fees), KRPC 8.4(d) (2006 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 510) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice), and KRPC 5.5(a) (2006 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 494) (unauthorized practice of law). The panel recommended that Respondent be censured and that the censure be published in the Kansas Reports. Respondent filed no exceptions to the panel's final hearing report.
The hearing panel made 20 separately numbered findings of fact which are reproduced in narrative form, as follows:
In October 2001, B.C. (decedent) died without a will. He was survived by his wife and his two adult daughters..
Respondent was retained to act as legal counsel for the estate in October 2001. At that time, Respondent met with the widow, two adult daughters, and the proposed administrators. The court appointed Joseph Schumacher to serve as the administrator of the estate.
At the time of his death, decedent owned property valued at approximately $4,000,000. The property included real estate, corporate stocks, partnership interests, and promissory notes. The property was located in Kansas and Missouri.
A number of decedent's assets passed on death to named beneficiaries. Other assets were held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. Additionally, decedent had established a special probate avoidance trust for his wife. Some of decedent's property, however, had to be distributed via probate.
Respondent informed the heirs and administrators that he would charge $175 per hour for his services. Additionally, Respondent informed the heirs and administrators that he would charge $85 per hour for his legal assistant's services. He told the heirs and the administrators that he expected to be paid monthly. Respondent did not reduce the agreement to writing either in the form of a written engagement letter or in a written fee agreement.
On November 27, 2001, Respondent filed the probate case in the District Court of Johnson County, Kansas.
On October 7, 2002, the Kansas Supreme Court suspended Respondent's license to practice law for failing to meet the continuing legal education annual requirements and for failing to pay the continuing legal education annual fee. Eventually, in December 2003, the court reinstated Respondent's license to practice law. Throughout the period of suspension, Respondent engaged in the practice of law by actively representing the estate.
John Michaels, attorney, assisted Respondent in his representation of the estate. Respondent and Mr. Michaels charged the estate a total of $168,896.52. Of that, nearly $100,000 was paid to Respondent. The fees were paid out over the course of the administration of the estate from late 2001 until early 2005. The attorney fees paid to Respondent and to Mr. Michaels were not presented to nor approved by the probate court.
Decedent and his wife had entered into a prenuptial agreement regarding her inheritance. Following decedent's death, his widow challenged the enforceability of the prenuptial agreement. The attorney fees charged by Respondent and Mr. Michaels included many charges for defending the prenuptial agreement.
In 2005, one of decedent's daughters retained an attorney to represent her. After she retained counsel, counsel informed the district judge, the Honorable Lawrence E. Sheppard, that Respondent had ...