Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pennsylvania Supremes Reject Attorney's 'Not Dishonest, Just A Sloppy Recordkeeper w/ Mental Health Issues' Defense; Court Says Helping Himself To Client Funds In Trust Accounts For Personal Use (Despite Paying It All Back) Merits Bar Boot

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Pocono Record reports:
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the disbarment of Stroudsburg attorney Peter Quigley for the mishandling of client funds.

    The decision affirmed a disciplinary board finding that, on five occasions, Quigley misappropriated funds from trust accounts set up on behalf of clients’ awards for various civil judgments.

    Quigley said his mishandling of funds was more the result of negligence, poor record keeping and a lack of understanding of trust account principles, than dishonesty. The justices were not totally unsympathetic.

    The court handed down the decision on June 20.

    One of those cases involved a client who Quigley represented in a wrongful death suit of the client’s wife following her death in 2012, along with the administration of the wife’s estate. According to court records, Quigley and the client agreed that Quigley’s fee would be one-third of any gross recovery from the insurance claims connected to the suit.

    Quigley settled five insurance claims that totaled $557,705 and was entitled to a fee of $185,902, with the client receiving the balance of $371,803. The funds were deposited into a trust account held on behalf of the client.

    Quigley made two payments to the client from the account totaling $133,500 in 2012. Quigley, according to the disciplinary board findings, withdrew funds in arbitrary amounts from Aug. 2012 to July 2013. On Jan. 2, 2013, according to court documents, Quigley obtained a cashier’s check for $165,000 drawn from the account to satisfy a lien by his former law partner, with whom the two shared an office building.

    After the withdrawal, the trust account held a balance of $148,988 despite that Quigley had not disbursed the remaining $238,303 still owed to the client.

    In April 2013, Quigley paid the client $117,000. Following the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, Quigley paid the remaining settlement funds owed to the client.

    Quigley conceded that his behavior violated professional conduct rules for attorneys, according to court documents.

    Four other cases were cited in the supreme court’s decision with similar features of the mishandling of client funds. In each case, Quigley admitted to violating professional conduct rules.

For more, see Local attorney Quigley disbarred for mishandling funds.

See also, Split High Court Upholds Disbarment for Mishandling Client Funds:
  • Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy, writing for the majority, said Quigley's arguments that he did not possess criminal intent in mishandling the funds and that all of his clients have since been paid in full were unavailing.

    "This court is unpersuaded that these circumstances mitigate the serious violations Quigley committed, as Quigley's misconduct involved five separate clients over a three-year period," Mundy said. "Further, he made full restitution to four of the clients only after disciplinary proceedings were initiated."

    Mundy was joined by Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justices Max Baer, Debra Todd and Kevin Dougherty.

    The majority also rejected Quigley's claims that several personal difficulties and mental health issues contributed to his actions and therefore mitigated the seriousness of the conduct.
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