State Bar of Mich. v. Block

Decision Date21 March 1968
Docket NumberDocket No. 2622,No. 3,3
Citation9 Mich.App. 698,158 N.W.2d 49
PartiesSTATE BAR OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Clem H. BLOCK, Defendant-Appellant
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Earl Waring Dunn, Grand Rapids, for defendant-appellant.

F. William Hutchinson, Grand Rapids, for plaintiff-appellee.


GILLIS, Judge.

This appeal concerns an interpretation of the rules of the State Bar of Michigan as promulgated by the Supreme Court pursuant to § 907 of the revised judicature act, being C.L.S.1961, § 600.907 (Stat.Ann.1962 Rev. § 27A.907). Respondent Clem H. Block, appellant, contends that the procedures which led to his disbarment were not in accord with those specified by our Supreme Court, and consequently, that the disbarment order should be held for naught. Further he contends that the alleged grounds of disbarment were not sufficiently aggravated to warrant his permanent disbarment.

These proceedings commenced with a request for investigation which was filed by the late State grievance administrator J. Cameron Hall on January 19, 1965. The action taken by the State Bar was based on information received by the grievance administrator relating to a number of estates in Kent county probate court in which respondent was involved as either attorney, executor or administrator, and wherein he was accused of causing unnecessary delays, among other irregularities. Another matter of alleged misappropriation of funds given for settlement of a client's case was also brought to the grievance administrator's attention at this time.

Section 4 of rule 15 requires an attorney to respond in writing to a properly and timely filed request for investigation. Although respondent claims to have communicated with the grievance administrator by telephone, the record indicates that no written disclosure was made by respondent as required under § 4 of the above rule. A second request dated March 12, 1965 was sent to respondent and, again, no written disclosure was received in return. The matter was then referred to the grievance committee for the 5th congressional district (§ 5, rule 15).

On April 19, 1965 the grievance committee filed a formal complaint under § 8 of rule 15 1 restating the allegations contained in the prior requests for investigation. A hearing was set for May 4, 1965 which, at respondent's request, was adjourned to June 22, 1965.

Subsequent to filing the formal complaint certain additional incidents involving alleged misconduct on the part of respondent were brought to the attention of the grievance committee. These allegations involved a misappropriation of funds paid to clients of respondent on 2 condemnation cases in which he was the attorney. The 2 clients alleged that they were unable to obtain their awards from respondent even though he had been given the money for them and in spite of their demands upon him.

The grievance committee referred these 2 new matters to the grievance administrator who, after investigation, made his report to the committee. As a result of the information disclosed by the administrator, the committee filed an amended formal complaint on June 1, 1965 which included the 2 additional allegations of misconduct. Respondent made formal answer to the amended complaint.

Hearings before the committee commenced on August 4, 1965 and various testimony and exhibits were received. Respondent participated in these hearings and, on the third day, he moved to dismiss the proceedings because the committee failed to conduct informal hearings on the 2 later allegations of misconduct prior to filing its formal amended complaint and the calling of formal hearings. The motion was denied by the committee on the grounds that: (1) the objection was procedural and respondent failed to make timely objection either in his answer or during the hearing; (2) rule 15 does not require an informal hearing; and (3) that in fact an informal investigation was conducted on the later allegations prior to filing the amended formal complaint. Respondent claims, on this appeal, that the committee erred in denying this motion.

It should be noted at this point that respondent contends that if the 2 later matters were not properly before the committee, their effect by inclusion was highly prejudicial in swaying the minds of the committee members. Thus, we are not required to review the action taken, if any, based on the allegations in the original formal complaint, but rather whether the committee erred in hearing the later allegations and if so, whether that constituted prejudicial error. Indeed, the State Bar, although it could have sought affirmance on the original allegations, chose to rely principally upon the later matters, thereby putting the committee's procedure squarely in issue.

Based on its findings and conclusions, the committee issued its report recommending disbarment. The report was certified by the committee chairman on February 1, 1966 and approved by the State Bar commissioner-at-large on March 3, 1966. The report was filed with the Kent county circuit court and an order was issued to respondent to show cause why an order for discipline should not issue (§ 15 of rule 15 as amended April 10, 1964 and May 1, 1965). Pursuant to § 15 of rule 15, a panel of 3 circuit judges was appointed who, En banc, heard the return on the order to show cause on April 20, 1966. The circuit court panel found no reason to deviate from the certified findings of the grievance committee recommending disbarment and directed that an order to discipline be presented in accordance therewith.

After a 20-day stay of entry of the order at the request of respondent, the panel entered its order of permanent disbarment. Respondent filed a motion for rehearing before the circuit judges alleging again the impropriety of the procedures followed by the committee; in particular, in failing to conduct an informal hearing prior to the issuance of the formal complaint on the 2 later allegations of misconduct. The motion for rehearing was denied. The written opinion of the circuit judges, after setting forth substantially the facts which we have thus far related, stated:

'Rule No. 34 provides that 'Process and procedure under these rules shall be as summary as may be reasonable. No investigation or proceedings hereunder shall be held invalid by reason of any non-prejudicial irregularity, nor for any error not resulting in a miscarriage of justice.'

'It would appear that, had the respondent considered that there was a miscarriage of justice because of an irregularity in the Grievance procedure, that such complaint could not (sic) have been included in the answer filed by the respondent to the amended complaint, or at least prior to hearing before the Grievance Committee.

'It appears that the respondent, at the time of the commencement of the hearing by the Grievance Committee, was willing to take his chances on the proofs that would be submitted, and having done so and being dissatisfied with the results he now seeks a re-hearing on the issues involved in the Nordhoff and Liskiewicz matters.

'At the hearing held by this Court the record will show that most of the matters now contained in the motion for a rehearing were argued by counsel for the respondent and the State Bar.'

Section 34 of rule 15 (a portion of which was quoted by the circuit judges) provides in pertinent portion:

'Process and procedure under these rules shall be as summary as may be reasonable. No investigation or proceedings hereunder shall be held invalid by reason of any nonprejudicial irregularity, nor for any error not resulting in a miscarriage of justice. The provisions in the various sections of this rule and of rule 14 shall be liberally construed for the protection of the public, the courts and the legal profession, and shall apply to all pending matters of misconduct and reinstatement so far as may be practicable, and to all future matters notwithstanding the alleged misconduct occurred prior to the effective date hereof. To the extent that application of any provision in this rule to any pending matter shall not be practicable, the rules in effect at the time this rule becomes effective shall continue to apply.'

Respondent is thus placed in the untenable position of urging a technical reading of the rule which flouts the construction dictated by the Supreme Court. Even assuming that such a technical reading would require an informal hearing, respondent is placed in the position of having been found at fault at the formal hearing after due notice and opportunity to be heard. The prejudice he claims, therefore, in its simplest terms, is that he might have been exonerated at an informal hearing. We cannot accept this proposition. An informal hearing would be held before the same committee. On an informal hearing, the...

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3 cases
  • Akinaka v. Disciplinary Board
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • 30 Junio 1999
    ...even these "degrees of discipline must be disassociated with the concept of punishment for wrongdoing." State Bar of Michigan v. Block, 9 Mich.App. 698, 158 N.W.2d 49, 54 (1968). For again, "the purpose of lawyer discipline proceedings is to protect the public and the administration of just......
  • Lipton v. Boesky
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • 20 Octubre 1981
    ...of Ethics, it was said that discipline is administered as a measure for the protection of the bench, bar and public. In Re Block, 9 Mich.App. 698, 707, 158 N.W.2d 49 (1968), citing In re Mains, 121 Mich. 603, 80 N.W. 714 (1899). Citing Attorney General v. Lane, 259 Mich. 283, 243 N.W. 6 (19......
  • State Bar of Mich. v. Block, 2
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • 13 Abril 1970
    ...questions which Division 3 considered in its opinion. See 381 Mich. 755 in conjunction with that opinion, 9 Mich.App. commencing at 701, 158 N.W.2d 49. Respondent's application came here almost simultaneously with advent of a critical onslaught, directed at the legal profession and the judi......

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