Sunday, April 14, 2013

In re Austern case brief

In re Austern case brief summary
524 A.2d 680 (D.C. 1987)

In this case, the attorney is seeking review of a report made by the District of Columbia's Board on Professional Responsibility. 
The report found that the attorney's conduct violated the Model Code of Professional Responsibility.
The board recommended a sanction of public censure.

Here, an attorney had assisted a client in the closing of a real estate transaction.
The attorney knew that the client's escrow account had insufficient funds.
The board stated that the attorney violated both DR 1-102(A)(4) and 7-102(A)(7) due to the fact that he had assisted the client in conduct that the attorney knew was fraudulent.

The board's conclusions were adopted by the court and the court ordered that the attorney be publicly censured.

The attorney agreed to act as an escrow agent in this transaction, which was a sham.
The attorney actively assisted the client in completing a fraud.
The attorney had an affirmative duty to withdraw from representation once he was aware that the escrow was funded with a bad or worthless check.
As a co-escrow agent, the attorney also owed a fiduciary duty to the client's purchasers to protect their investment(s).
The court said that, considering the gravity of the misconduct, that the sanction (of public censure) was appropriate in this case.

OUTCOME: The attorney's conduct violated the Model Code of Professional Responsibility and, as a result, the court ordered that the attorney be publicly censured.

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