Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 34309
Attorney Name Atlas, Joan Gaughan
DBP Docket No. 171 DB 2001
Supreme Court Docket No. 919 DD No. 3
County Philadelphia
Disciplinary Counsel Raymond S. Wierciszewski
Counsel for Respondent Stuart L. Haimowitz
Decision Date 2004-06-29
Effective Date 2004-07-29
Case Digest The Petition for Discipline in this matter contained three charges alleging that beginning in March 1997 and continuing over 44 moths, Respondent committed serious professional misconduct by converting and commingling fiduciary funds, misrepresenting her receipt of fiduciary funds and engaging in a series of false certifications on her attorney annual fee forms. According to the Report and Recommendations of the Disciplinary Board, Respondent’s misconduct included “knowingly and intentionally misappropriating $35,000 in fiduciary funds” belonging to her former law firm which constituted “the criminal act of theft.” At the time of the disciplinary hearing, Respondent had not made any restitution to her former firm. Disciplinary Counsel sought Respondent’s disbarment. Respondent sought a stayed suspension with probation. By Report dated July 16, 2003, the Hearing Committee recommended that Respondent be suspended for three years. By Report and Recommendations dated March 24, 2004, the Disciplinary Board agreed with the recommendation of the Hearing Committee. The Disciplinary Board noted that the only mitigating factors were Respondent’s "lack of a prior record of discipline and her serious efforts at achieving and maintaining sobriety." The Disciplinary Board was “convinced that three years will suffice to instill in Respondent a more complete understanding of her wrongdoing and a renewed awareness of her professional responsibilities.” One Member of the Disciplinary Board dissented in favor of a five year suspension. By Order dated June 29, 2004, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania suspended Respondent for a period of three years.
Rule Violation(s) RPC 1.15(a), RPC 1.15(b), RPC 1.15(c), RPC 8.4(b), RPC 8.4(c) and Pa.R.D.E. 203(b)(3) via Pa.R.D.E. 219(d)(1)(iii).
Discipline Imposed Suspension for three years
Points of Law Converting fiduciary funds belonging to a former employer is serious professional misconduct. In order to be entitled to mitigation, Respondent must prove by clear and convincing evidence that a psychiatric infirmity was a causal factor in producing the misconduct.
Report/Opinion Download