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In re Geniuk

Supreme Court of Kansas

February 23, 2018

In the Matter of Kenneth J. Geniuk, Respondent.

         Original proceeding in discipline. Disbarment.

          Danielle M. Hall, Deputy Disciplinary Administrator, argued the cause, and Stanton A. Hazlett, Disciplinary Administrator, was with her on the formal complaint for the petitioner.

          No appearance by respondent.

          Per Curiam

         This is an original proceeding in discipline filed by the office of the Disciplinary Administrator against the respondent, Kenneth J. Geniuk, of Gladstone, Missouri, an attorney admitted to the practice of law in Kansas in 2007.

         On April 11, 2017, 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 did not file an answer. A hearing was held on the complaint before a panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys on June 13, 2017, where the respondent did not appear. The hearing panel determined that respondent violated KRPC 5.5(a) and (b) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 363) (unauthorized practice of law); 7.1(a) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 372) (communications concerning a lawyer's services); 8.3(a) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 380) (reporting professional misconduct); 8.4(d) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 381) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice); Kansas Supreme Court Rule 207(c) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 246) (failure to report action); Kansas Supreme Court Rule 208(c) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 246) (failure to notify Clerk of the Appellate Courts of change of address); and Kansas Supreme Court Rule 211(b) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 251) (failure to file answer in disciplinary proceeding).

         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. The Kansas Supreme Court admitted the respondent to the practice of law in the State of Kansas on September 28, 2007. On September 18, 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court issued an order suspending the respondent's license to practice law for failing to comply with the annual requirements to maintain a law license. The order of suspension was mailed via certified mail to the respondent's registration address. The respondent's license remains suspended. [Footnote: The respondent's license to practice law in Kansas had previously been suspended on September 14, 2012. As such, the Supreme Court issued an order of suspension. In October, 2012, the respondent complied with the requirements and sought and obtained reinstatement of his license in Kansas.]
"8. The Missouri Supreme Court admitted the respondent to the practice of law on April 16, 2008. On June 28, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order indefinitely suspending the respondent's license to practice law for having violated Rule 1.3 (diligence) and 1.4 (communication).
"9. After the respondent's license to practice law in Kansas was suspended by the Supreme Court, the respondent engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
"10. On January 6, 2015, the respondent entered his appearance on behalf of the natural father in [a] child in need of care case filed in Wyandotte County, Kansas, case number 2014JC217. The respondent entered his appearance using a generic form with hand-written case specific information. On the respondent's entry of appearance, the respondent listed an address in Kearney, Missouri. The respondent included his Kansas bar number next to his name.
"11. That same day, the respondent appeared with his client in that case for a review hearing. The respondent failed to inform his client, opposing counsel, and the court that his license to practice law in Kansas had been suspended.
"12. On April 17, 2015, the respondent appeared on behalf of his client for another review hearing. Again, the respondent failed to inform his client, opposing counsel, and the court that his license to practice law in Kansas has been suspended.
"13. On July 27, 2015, the Honorable Daniel Cahill received notice from staff that the respondent's license to practice law in Kansas was suspended in 2013. After learning that the respondent's Kansas license had been suspended, Judge Cahill searched for the respondent's contact information. Because the respondent's license was suspended, when Judge Cahill searched the Kansas Online Attorney Directory for the respondent's name, the search yielded no results. Judge Cahill located the respondent's contact information on the Missouri Attorney Directory.
"14. That same day, the respondent appeared before Judge Cahill for another review hearing. After the respondent stated his appearance, Judge Cahill inquired whether the respondent was a licensed Kansas attorney. The respondent asserted that he was a Missouri lawyer and appeared by the authority of KRPC 5.5(c)(2).
"15. KRPC 5.5(c)(2) provides:
'(c) A lawyer admitted in another United States jurisdiction and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services on a temporary basis in this jurisdiction that:
. . . .
(2) are services in or reasonably related to a pending or potential proceeding before a tribunal in this or another jurisdiction, if the lawyer, or a person the lawyer is assisting, is authorized by law or order to appear in such proceeding or reasonably expects to be so authorized.'
"16. The respondent argued that KRPC 5.5(c)(2) applied because he planned to file a paternity action in Missouri after the child in need of care case was resolved. The respondent, however, did not disclose that he had a Kansas license to practice law and that his license had been suspended for failing to comply with the annual requirements to maintain a license.
"17. Judge Cahill disagreed with the respondent's interpretation of KRPC 5.5(c)(2) and informed the respondent that he was not authorized to practice law. Judge Cahill directed the respondent to leave counsel table.
'[Judge Cahill] observed [the respondent's client] approach [the respondent] and have a brief conversation with him. The [client] then immediately turned to the Court and requested certain documentation. It was clear from this exchange that [the respondent] was continuing to advise [his client] on legal matters even after the Court had informed him that he was ineligible to do so.'
"18. Even though the respondent argued that he was authorized to represent his client by virtue of KRPC 5.5(c)(2) and his Missouri license to practice law, in his entry of appearance, the respondent included his Kansas bar number, the respondent did not include his Missouri bar number, and the respondent did not reference KRPC 5.5(c)(2).
"19. After the respondent's appearance on July 27, 2015, Judge Cahill confirmed that the respondent had a Kansas license which had been suspended.
"20. Also on July 27, 2015, Judge Cahill filed a complaint with the disciplinary administrator's office against the respondent.
"21. The respondent provided a written response to the complaint. In the respondent's response, the respondent stated:
'This letter is in response to your letter of July 29, 2015, regarding the above referenced disciplinary matter. As a prefatory note, your letter was addressed to an office I have not maintained since about January of last year. The envelope, however, appears to have a label covering the old address, and as such the letter was resent to my current address. From my receipt of the letter, I am within the 20 days in which you requested a response. However, based on the date of the letter, said 20 days has already expired. I left you a voice mail about this earlier today.
'To address the complaint filed by Hon. Daniel Cahill, it is true that I entered my appearance on behalf of and represented [T.F.] in case number 2014 JC 217 now pending in the District Court of Wyandotte County, Kansas. [T.F.] contacted me last year with regard to his situation, as set forth below.
'[T.F.] is [a] resident of the State of Missouri. He resided in Missouri with his girlfriend and his daughter, [A.F.]. Last year, his girlfriend left him and moved to an unknown location in the State of Kansas. She had already been gone several weeks when [T.F.] contacted me. His desire was to gain custody of his daughter. In Missouri, "child custody" is a matter to be determined as an issue in an underlying case, and with limited exceptions not applicable to [T.F.]'s situation, is not a stand alone proceeding. Since [T.F.] was not married to his child's mother, the way to plead this in Missouri is through a paternity action. This is a common practice in Missouri-i.e., even where paternity is not disputed, a paternity action is filed in order to establish rights of custody and child support.
'I prepared pleadings to file in Jackson County, Missouri. I explained to [T.F.] that, pursuant to [the] Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act, Missouri would likely be determined to be the home state of the child for child custody determination. However, since she had already moved to Kansas, we may need to have a hearing regarding which state is appropriate for jurisdiction if it was determined by the Missouri courts that the child had no home state, since the child technically did not reside within any one state for the six months prior to when we intended to file.
'The filing of the paternity matter was delayed for a time, as we were attempting to locate where, exactly, in Kansas the mother had moved to so that we could list her location on the summons for service. Before we could locate her and file the Missouri action, however, the child was taken into custody by the Kansas Department of Social Services, and a ...

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