State ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Association v. Siegrist, 032420 OKSC, 6825
|Opinion Judge:||KANE, J.|
|Party Name:||STATE OF OKLAHOMA ex rel., OKLAHOMA BAR ASSOCIATION, Complainant, v. KENT LEROY SIEGRIST, Respondent.|
|Attorney:||Stephen L. Sullins, Assistant General Counsel, Oklahoma Bar Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Complainant.|
|Case Date:||March 24, 2020|
|Court:||Supreme Court of Oklahoma|
Stephen L. Sullins, Assistant General Counsel, Oklahoma Bar Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Complainant.
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING FOR ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE
¶0 The Complainant, State of Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Association, charged the Respondent Kent Leroy Siegrist with two counts of professional misconduct: (1) Respondent's misappropriation of $1, 135, 000.00 as the Personal Representative of his father's estate, and (2) Respondent's failure to competently and diligently represent another client. The Respondent wholly failed to respond to the Complaint, and failed to appear at the disciplinary hearing, where the facts underlying the Complaint were deemed admitted. The Professional Responsibility Tribunal recommended the Respondent be disbarred from the practice of law and to pay the costs associated with the proceedings. Respondent's actions violate the rules of professional conduct and constitute the commission of acts contrary to prescribed standards of conduct. We hold there is clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent's conduct warrants disbarment. The Respondent is disbarred and ordered to pay the costs as herein provided within ninety days after this opinion becomes final.
¶1 Complainant State of Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Association began disciplinary proceedings pursuant to Rule 6, Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings (RGDP), 5 O.S.2011 ch.1, app. 1-A, alleging two (2) counts of professional misconduct against Respondent Kent Leroy Siegrist. The Respondent is an active member of the Oklahoma Bar Association and is currently in good standing. The Complainant's allegations arise in part from the Respondent's mishandling of his father's estate, as the personal representative for that estate, and misconduct towards a separate client. The Complainant alleges the Respondent's actions are in violation of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct (ORPC), 5 O.S.2011 ch.1, app. 3-A, and the RGDP and are cause for professional discipline.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶2 On May 10, 2018, Respondent's brother, David Siegrist, filed his grievance (Siegrist grievance) against Respondent with the Oklahoma Bar Association. Thereafter, on August 24, 2018, Brian Paige filed his grievance (Paige grievance) against Respondent with the Oklahoma Bar Association. Respondent failed to respond to either grievance. On August 15, 2019, a Complaint was filed in this matter by the Complainant against Respondent pursuant to Rule 6, RGDP, alleging two counts of professional misconduct. Respondent failed to file an Answer to the Complaint. On October 1, 2019, Complainant filed a Notice of Service detailing its attempts to serve Respondent with the Complaint and all of the filed materials in this matter. There is no dispute that Respondent was provided with proper notice of the proceedings. 1 On October 8, 2019, Complainant filed an Amended Motion to Deem Allegations Admitted. 2 The motion was sustained by the Professional Responsibility Tribunal (PRT) at the beginning of the disciplinary proceedings on October 9, 2019. 3 Respondent failed to appear at the hearing.
¶3 On November 8, 2019, the PRT issued its Trial Panel Report (Report). The PRT found by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent violated Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, and 8.4(a), (c), and (d), ORPC, and Rules 1.3 and 5.2, RGDP, with the recommendation that Respondent be disbarred from the practice of law and that he be ordered to pay the costs of these proceedings.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
¶4 In bar disciplinary proceedings, this Court possesses exclusive original jurisdiction. State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass'n v. Holden, 1995 OK 25, ¶ 10, 895 P.2d 707, 711. Our review of the evidence is de novo in determining if the Complainant proved its allegations of misconduct by clear and convincing evidence. State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass'n v. Bolusky, 2001 OK 26, ¶ 7, 23 P.3d 268; Rule 6.12(c), RGDP. Clear and convincing evidence is that measure or degree of proof which produces in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established. See State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass'n v. Green, 1997 OK 39, ¶ 5, 936 P.2d 947, 949. Our goals in disciplinary proceedings are to protect the interests of the public and to preserve the integrity of the courts and the legal profession, not to punish the offending lawyers. State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass'n v. Kinsey, 2009 OK 31, ¶ 15, 212 P.3d 1186.
¶5 Whether to impose discipline is a decision that rests solely with this Court, and the recommendations of the PRT are neither binding nor persuasive. See State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass'n v. Eakin, 1995 OK 106, ¶ 8, 914 P.2d 644, 648. To make this assessment, we must receive a record that permits "an independent on-the-record-determination of the critical facts" and impose appropriate discipline. State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass'n v. Schraeder, 2002 OK 51, ¶ 6, 51 P.3d 570. The Complainant submitted the record in this case which consisted of: (1) the pleadings filed with the Supreme Court; (2) the transcript of the hearing before the PRT on October 9, 2019; (3) Complainant's Exhibits 1-52; (4) Complainant's Application to Assess Costs in the amount of $2, 794.50 filed on November 8, 2019; and (5) the PRT's Report filed on November 8, 2019. We agree that the record before us is complete.
III. THE GRIEVANCES
A. Count I - The Siegrist Grievance
¶6 Respondent's father passed away and a probate was filed on May 5, 2008 in Canadian County, Case No. PB-2008-68. Respondent was named the Personal Representative of his father's estate in 2008. Thereafter, on or about May 3, 2017, David Siegrist, Respondent's brother, hired attorney Richard Fogg to represent him in the probate proceeding, and Mr. Fogg filed a Petition for Accounting. Mr. Fogg also sought to have his client David Siegrist named as the Personal Representative, thereby replacing Respondent as the Personal Representative.
¶7 Mr. Fogg testified that Respondent, as the Personal Representative of his father's estate, failed to file state and federal tax returns for several years. Mr. Fogg attended at least nine court appearances on behalf of David Siegrist in the probate proceeding. Respondent only appeared twice. 4 Respondent, likewise, failed to attend his deposition and the scheduled mediation in the probate proceeding. Mr. Fogg's legal assistant, Katie Reed, testified how she spent an extensive amount of time looking through the estate and Respondent's personal bank accounts trying to determine how much money was taken from the estate and transferred to accounts owned by Respondent.
¶8 On April 25, 2018, a Journal Entry of Judgment was entered by Judge Hatfield which found that Respondent had converted $1, 135, 000.00 of estate funds while acting...
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