Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson, No. 08-0070.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtHecht
Citation750 N.W.2d 104
Docket NumberNo. 08-0070.
Decision Date06 June 2008
PartiesIOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, Complainant, v. David John ISAACSON, Respondent.
750 N.W.2d 104
IOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, Complainant,
v.
David John ISAACSON, Respondent.
No. 08-0070.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
June 6, 2008.

[750 N.W.2d 106]

Charles L. Harrington and David J. Grace, Des Moines, for complainant.

David L. Brown and Alexander Wonio of Hansen, McClintock & Riley, Des Moines, for respondent.

HECHT, Justice.


This matter comes before the court on the report of a division of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa. See Iowa Ct. R. 35.10. The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board alleged the respondent, David J. Isaacson, violated ethical rules by failing to deposit a client's funds in a trust account, converting the client's funds, failing to keep records of transactions with the client, and making misrepresentations to the Iowa Supreme Court Disciplinary Board, the Iowa Supreme Court Client Security Commission, and the law firm partnership of which he was a member. The grievance commission found Isaacson violated the Iowa Code of Professional Responsibility by failing to deposit a client's funds in a trust account, and failing to keep proper records of transactions pertaining to those funds, but concluded the board failed to meet its burden of proof as to the other allegations. The majority of the commission recommends the imposition of a public reprimand.1 Upon our respectful consideration of the commission's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation of the commission, we find the respondent committed several of the charged ethical violations and suspend his license to practice law for six months.

I. Standard of Review.

We review de novo the commission's findings. Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Gottschalk, 729 N.W.2d 812, 815 (Iowa 2007). We give the commission's findings and recommendations respectful consideration, but we are not bound by them. Id. It is the board's burden to prove attorney misconduct by a convincing preponderance of the evidence. Iowa Supreme Ct. Bd. of Prof'l Ethics & Conduct v. Lett, 674 N.W.2d 139, 142 (Iowa 2004). If we find the board has proved its allegations of attorney misconduct, we "may impose a lesser or greater sanction than the discipline recommended by the grievance commission." Iowa Ct. R. 35.10(1).

II. Factual Findings.

Isaacson, a partner in a Des Moines law firm, represented Kelly Belz in an action to collect rent owed by Belz's tenant, Robert Young. An agreement was reached on September 30, 2003, in which Young agreed to make a series of payments to settle the case: $1500 on or before October 15, 2003; $1500 on or before November 15, 2003; and the balance of $5100 on or before December 31, 2003.

Young paid the first settlement installment by delivering to Isaacson a check in the amount of $1500. Isaacson deposited the check in his personal bank account, withdrew $1300 in cash, and delivered $684 in cash to Belz.2

Young delivered to Isaacson a check in the amount of $3000 on or about November

750 N.W.2d 107

18, 2003. When Isaacson deposited this check in his personal account on that date, the account had a negative balance of $155.52. It is undisputed that Isaacson subsequently delivered to Belz the sum of $3000 in cash, but neither Isaacson nor Belz maintained records that could establish when this occurred.

The third and final installment of the settlement was paid on or about December 26, 2003, when Young delivered to Isaacson a check in the amount of $2600. Isaacson deposited the instrument in his personal account on December 30, 2003, and failed to promptly deliver the funds to Belz. Several months passed. After being informed by a third party in late June of 2004 that Belz believed Isaacson had failed to account for the third settlement installment, Isaacson's law partner reviewed the law firm's trust account. Finding no evidence of Belz's settlement proceeds, the partner confronted Isaacson who denied he was in possession of the proceeds and claimed Belz was mistaken.3

In his initial written response on June 13, 2005, to the board's inquiry, Isaacson represented that although Young was to have made all payments under the settlement with Belz by December 31, 2003, "the monies were received at a considerably later time period." Isaacson also assured the board that he could provide "a proper accounting for the settlement [funds]." Both of these representations made by Isaacson to the board were false. Young made all payments required under the settlement agreement before the end of 2003, and Isaacson could not properly account for the settlement funds because he commingled them with his personal funds and failed to maintain records from which an accurate accounting could be demonstrated.

Isaacson subsequently prepared, and Belz signed, an affidavit in response to the board's inquiry. In the affidavit, Belz asserted that Isaacson cashed the settlement checks at Belz's direction and delivered to Belz all funds to which Belz was entitled.4 The affidavit also alleged Belz was satisfied with Isaacson's representation in connection with the Young matter, and asserted Belz subsequently consulted Isaacson on other matters and referred relatives to Isaacson for legal services.

The board filed a complaint on April 30, 2007, alleging Isaacson committed numerous ethical violations. The board asserted Isaacson's failure to deposit the settlement funds in a trust account, and his failure to respond truthfully to the board violated DR 9-102 (preserving identity of client's funds), DR 9-103(A) (maintaining books and records sufficient to demonstrate compliance with DR 9-102), and DR 1-102(A)(1) (violating a disciplinary rule), (4) (dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), (5) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) and (6) (conduct adversely reflecting on fitness to practice law). In an amendment to its complaint, the board subsequently alleged Isaacson

750 N.W.2d 108

also violated DR 1-102(A)(4) and (6) by failing to deposit in the firm's office account fees paid by several other clients, and by drawing a check on the law firm's partnership account to compensate his daughter for labor and reimbursing the firm with a check on his personal account that was returned for insufficient funds.

III. Ethical Violations.

A convincing preponderance of the evidence establishes that Isaacson violated DR 9-102(A) by failing to deposit Belz's funds in a trust...

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21 practice notes
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Den Beste, No. 19-0360
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 13, 2019
    ...involved were relatively small and there was no prior record of discipline. See Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson , 750 N.W.2d 104, 110 (Iowa 2008) (imposing a six-month suspension for attorney who converted fees and failed to respond to partnership’s request for missing f......
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Kozlik, No. 19-1934
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 22, 2020
    ...Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Clarity , 838 N.W.2d 648, 656 (Iowa 2013) (quoting Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson , 750 N.W.2d 104, 109 (Iowa 2008) ). On de novo review, we conclude a convincing preponderance of the evidence shows Kozlik violated both rules. As the admini......
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Henrichsen, No. 12–1567.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 18, 2013
    ...receivables intended for the firm into a personal bank [825 N.W.2d 528]account. See Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson, 750 N.W.2d 104, 108–09 (Iowa 2008); Iowa Supreme Ct. Bd. of Prof'l Ethics & Conduct v. Irwin, 679 N.W.2d 641, 644 (Iowa 2004); Iowa Supreme Ct. Bd. of Pro......
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Powell, No. 12–1516.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 3, 2013
    ...Disciplinary Bd. v. Parrish, 801 N.W.2d 580, 588–89 (Iowa 2011) (citing cases); Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson, 750 N.W.2d 104, 109–10 (Iowa 2008); Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. McCann, 712 N.W.2d 89, 97 (Iowa 2006) (citing cases). The commission believed t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Den Beste, No. 19-0360
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 13, 2019
    ...involved were relatively small and there was no prior record of discipline. See Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson , 750 N.W.2d 104, 110 (Iowa 2008) (imposing a six-month suspension for attorney who converted fees and failed to respond to partnership’s request for missing f......
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Kozlik, No. 19-1934
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 22, 2020
    ...Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Clarity , 838 N.W.2d 648, 656 (Iowa 2013) (quoting Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson , 750 N.W.2d 104, 109 (Iowa 2008) ). On de novo review, we conclude a convincing preponderance of the evidence shows Kozlik violated both rules. As the admini......
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Henrichsen, No. 12–1567.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 18, 2013
    ...receivables intended for the firm into a personal bank [825 N.W.2d 528]account. See Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson, 750 N.W.2d 104, 108–09 (Iowa 2008); Iowa Supreme Ct. Bd. of Prof'l Ethics & Conduct v. Irwin, 679 N.W.2d 641, 644 (Iowa 2004); Iowa Supreme Ct. Bd. of Pro......
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Powell, No. 12–1516.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 3, 2013
    ...Disciplinary Bd. v. Parrish, 801 N.W.2d 580, 588–89 (Iowa 2011) (citing cases); Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Isaacson, 750 N.W.2d 104, 109–10 (Iowa 2008); Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. McCann, 712 N.W.2d 89, 97 (Iowa 2006) (citing cases). The commission believed t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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