ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE
Original proceeding in discipline.
This is an original uncontested proceeding in discipline filed by the office of the Disciplinary Administrator against respondent, Scott L. Ruther, an attorney admitted to the practice of law in Kansas in September 1985. The respondent's last registration address filed with the Clerk of the Appellate Courts of Kansas is in Lenexa, Kansas. A hearing panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys conducted a formal hearing, as required by Kansas Supreme Court Rule 211 (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 304).
The hearing panel concluded respondent violated the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct as follows: KRPC 1.15(d)(1) (safekeeping property) (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 473); KRPC 1.15(d)(3)(iii) (rules and procedures concerning interest on attorney trust account); and KRPC 1.15(e) (attorney certification of compliance with KRPC 1.15), as well as Supreme Court Rule 211(b) (requiring service of answer to complaint within 20 days). The panel unanimously recommended that the respondent be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in the state of Kansas. The respondent did not file exceptions to the final hearing report.
The hearing panel's findings of fact are summarized as follows.
On May 24, 2004, respondent completed the 2004 Kansas attorney registration form. On the form respondent indicated he had neither a Kansas trust account nor a Kansas Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA). Additionally respondent certified:
"I am familiar with and have read Kansas Supreme Court Rule 226, KRPC 1.15, and I and/or my law firm comply/complies with KRPC 1.15 pertaining to preserving the identity of funds and property of a client."
In fact, respondent had opened an interest-bearing savings account at a Lenexa Bank on August 13, 2001, which was open and active during the investigation stage of the proceedings herein.
In February 2005, a complaint was filed against the respondent regarding his trust account. Robert Straub, an investigator with the Disciplinary Administrator's office, conducted the investigation. On March 8, 2005, Mr. Straub met with the respondent and conducted an audit of the respondent's trust account. Mr. Straub discovered certain irregularities with the way the respondent handled his trust account.
Specifically the panel found:
"The Respondent used the Trust Account to hold client money. Additionally, the Respondent used the Trust Account to hold personal money. For example, in 2004, the Respondent deposited personal funds on two occasions. On May 18, 2004, the Respondent deposited personal funds in the amount of $12,500 into the Trust Account. Then, on May 25, 2004, the Respondent deposited in excess of $96,000 into the Trust Account in behalf of a client. Thereafter, on June 1, 2004, the Respondent withdrew the personal funds in the amount of $12,500. The $96,000 remained in the Respondent's Trust Account until July 28, 2004. Following the withdrawal of the $96,000, accumulated interest on those funds remained in the account. On August 16, 2004, the Respondent deposited $9,602.16 of personal funds into the Trust account. The Respondent withdrew the $9,602.16 in two transactions. On January 24, 2005, the Respondent withdrew $4,500. Then on March 9, 2005 [the day after the Straub interview], the Respondent closed the account and withdrew the balance of the $9,602.16 deposit as well as accumulated interest on client money."
There is no finding or claim that any principal belonging to a client was diverted by respondent or that the balance in the account ever fell below what was owed to clients.
Ultimately a formal complaint was filed and appropriately served on respondent. No response was filed by respondent.
The hearing panel's conclusions of law are ...