In the Matter of SUSAN L. BOWMAN, Respondent
Twelve-month suspension, stayed after 6 months, with 24 months' probation.
Kate F. Baird, Deputy Disciplinary Administrator, argued the cause, and Stanton A. Hazlett, Disciplinary Administrator, was with her on the formal complaint for the petitioner.
John J. Ambrosio, of Ambrosio & Ambrosio, Chtd., of Topeka, argued the cause, and Susan L. Bowman, respondent, argued the cause pro se.
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE
This is an original proceeding in discipline filed by the office of the Disciplinary Administrator against the respondent, Susan L. Bowman, of Seneca, an attorney admitted to the practice of law in Kansas in 1987.
On September 28, 2012, the office of the Disciplinary Administrator filed a formal complaint against the respondent alleging violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct (KRPC). The respondent filed an answer on December 4, 2012. On December 11, 2012, the respondent also filed a motion to accept answer out of time. A hearing was
held on the complaint before a panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys on January 10, 2013. Respondent's motion to accept answer out of time was granted at the hearing.
The hearing panel determined that respondent violated KRPC 1.3 (2012 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 454) (diligence); 1.16 (2012 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 558) (termination of representation); 3.3(a)(1) (2012 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 582) (candor toward tribunal); 8.1(b) (2012 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 634) (failure to respond to lawful demand for information from disciplinary authority); 8.4(c) (2012 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 643) (engaging in conduct involving misrepresentation); 8.4(d) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice); and Kansas Supreme Court Rule 207(b) (2012 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 329) (failure to cooperate in disciplinary investigation).
[298 Kan. 232] Upon conclusion of the hearing, the panel made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law, together with its recommendation to this court:
" FINDINGS OF FACT
. . . .
" 7. Tyson Langdon died intestate as a result of a car accident on October 18, 2008. He was 22 years old. He was survived by his minor daughter Noralee A. Langdon, his father Ted Langdon, and his mother Elma Ball. Tyson Langdon's estate primarily included his vehicle and an insurance claim related to his vehicle. Additionally, Tyson Langdon had a life insurance policy for $30,000 through his employment. Noralee Langdon was the sole beneficiary of the life insurance policy, thus, the proceeds of the life insurance policy were not estate assets.
" 8. On November 20, 2008, Martin W. Mishler, counsel for Mr. Langdon, filed a petition for letters of administration in Nemaha County District Court. Mr. Langdon sought appointment as administrator of his son's estate.
" 9. On December 17, 2008, Gordon R. Olson, counsel for Ms. Ball, filed an answer to the petition seeking transfer of the proceedings to Shawnee County and seeking Ms. Ball's appointment as the sole administrator of the estate. That same day, Mr. Olson filed a petition for appointment of administrator and issuance of letters of administration.
" 10. On January 28, 2009, Magistrate Judge Deiter appointed the Respondent to serve as guardian ad litem for Noralee Langdon. According to the appointment order, the Respondent was to represent the best interests of the child at all stages of the proceeding. The Respondent remains as Noralee Langdon's guardian ad litem. Despite the Respondent's official role as guardian ad litem, the Respondent never filed a claim with the insurance company to obtain the $30,000 in life insurance proceeds in which Noralee Langdon was the sole beneficiary.
" 11. On February 18, 2008, Mr. Olson filed a proof of claim for $1,600.00 for attorney fees incurred in representing Tyson Langdon on criminal matters, a revenue matter, and a paternity action.
" 12. On February 18, 2009, the court appointed the Respondent to serve as administrator of the estate. On March 6, 2009, the Respondent filed an oath of administrator and agreed to 'faithfully and impartially . . . discharge all of the duties' as administrator. Finally, the Respondent provided a $600,000 bond for her services as administrator. On March 6, 2009, the court issued letters of administration to the Respondent.
" 13. On March 10, 2009, Popkess Mortuary, Inc., filed a petition for allowance and classification of demand, seeking payment of the funeral expenses associated with Tyson Langdon's funeral.
" 14. On March 27, 2009, Mr. Langdon filed a petition for allowance and classification of demand for expenses related to Tyson Langdon's funeral as well as attorney fees and the grave marker.
[298 Kan. 233] " 15. The court conducted a hearing on May 13, 2009. At that time, the court authorized the Respondent to pay claims to Popkess Mortuary, Gordon Olson, and Mr. Langdon. The Respondent failed to pay the claims to Popkess Mortuary, Gordon Olson, and Mr. Langdon.
" 16. Also on May 13, 2009, the court authorized the administrator to sell Tyson Langdon's vehicle. The Respondent sold Tyson Langdon's vehicle for $2,300.00.
" 17. For an extended time period, the Respondent took no action in Tyson Langdon's estate case.
" 18. Mr. Langdon repeatedly called the Respondent to learn the status of the estate matter. The Respondent did not routinely take Mr. Langdon's telephone calls nor did she return Mr. Langdon's calls. [Footnote: For a period of time, Mr. Langdon was represented by counsel. However, on April 22, 2011, counsel for Mr. Langdon was permitted to withdraw. Following Mr. Mishler's departure from the case, the Respondent did not adequately communicate with Mr. Langdon.]
" 19. On April 18, 2011, the court scheduled an administrative review hearing for May 11, 2011. The court directed the Respondent to appear at the hearing and to provide an accounting through April 30, 2011.
" 20. Prior to the May 11, 2011, hearing, Mr. Mishler and Mr. Olson were allowed to withdraw.
" 21. On May 11, 2011, the Respondent filed an interim accounting. The accounting reported a distribution from the estate to Popkess Mortuary in the amount of $8,503.54 and to the Mishler Law Office in the amount of $1,166.15. [Footnote: The exhibits presented to the Hearing Panel do not include a copy of a claim made by Mr. Mishler nor do the exhibits include a court order authorizing the Respondent to pay Mr. Mishler's claim.] No other distributions were made. At that time, the estate consisted of $3,430.31.
" 22. At the May 11, 2011, hearing, the court allowed the Respondent to withdraw as administrator after she paid Mr. Langdon's first-class claim in the amount of $957.00 and filed a final accounting. The court appointed the Morrill & Janes Bank and Trust Company as successor administrator.
" 23. Between May, 2011, and December, 2011, Michael Riley, Trust Services Division President of Morrill & Janes Bank and Trust Company, repeatedly contacted the Respondent in an attempt to obtain the Respondent's file. When Mr. Riley was able to reach the Respondent, the Respondent assured Mr. Riley that she would get him the file. The Respondent did not provide the file to Mr. Riley.
" 24. On December 23, 2011, Mr. Riley notified the court that the Morrill & Janes Bank and Trust Company was unable to assume the responsibilities as successor administrator because [of] the Respondent's lack of cooperation. Mr. Riley informed the court that he would seek leave to resign the appointment unless the Respondent provided the necessary information and documents. Again, the Respondent failed to provide Mr. Riley with her file.
" 25. Because the Respondent continued to fail to cooperate, on February 3, 2012, Mr. Riley filed a motion asking the court to rescind the order appointing [298 Kan. 234] Morrill & Janes Bank and Trust Company as successor administrator. On March 9, 2012, the court granted the motion.
" 26. The court scheduled a case management conference for May 10, 2012. The court sent notice of the hearing to the Respondent at her office address.
" 27. On May 10, 2012, the Respondent failed to appear at the case management hearing. The court called the Respondent and reached her by telephone at her home. The following exchange occurred at the outset of the hearing:
'(Mrs. Bowman appeared by telephone.)
'THE COURT: Susan?
'MRS. BOWMAN: Yes.
'THE COURT: This is Judge Weingart.
'MRS. BOWMAN: Yes.
'THE COURT: We're on the--We're in court in the Estate of Tyson Langdon, Case No. 08 PR 58, and we are on the record.
'MRS. BOWMAN: Okay.
'THE COURT: Are you not coming to the hearing?
'MRS. BOWMAN: Um, I didn't have that on my calendar.
'THE COURT: You didn't get a notice from our office?
'MRS. BOWMAN: I--I did not see one.
'THE COURT: We sent it, on ...