The state has three fewer practicing attorneys today, none of whom went willingly, according to the latest Washington State Bar disciplinary report. All were disbarred - one for violations related to her gambling addiction, another for in part committing criminal acts with his client, and a third for conduct that included accepting $25,000 to handle a case that was later settled by another attorney for $500.
Starting in or about June 2010, Ms. Hansen manifested a gambling addiction problem and used funds from her trust account, some of which belonged to clients, for gambling. There is evidence that her gambling addiction was also impacted by her use of a prescription drug, of which a possible side effect is compulsive behavior.
The bar found Hansen converted client funds that ranged between $400 and $10,000 in four different matters, using the money for gambling and other unintended purposes. In mid-August 2010, her bank closed Hansen's business and savings accounts because both were overdrawn due to her gambling. Her spouse also removed her as a signatory from a joint account due to her gambling, the bar says.
Alan Mark Singer of Tukwila, a lawyer since 1981, was disbarred for conduct that included failure to provide competent representation, trust account irregularities, conversion of clients' funds, commission of criminal acts, and unfitness to practice. The bar says Singer:
Deposited unearned advance fees, totaling between $1,420 and $9,500, from three clients into his general account instead of his trust account; solicited, purchased, and obtained controlled substances from a client, and continued to represent the client in his criminal matter after having committed criminal acts with him; and failed to competently represent two clients in their matters due to physical and mental impairment, and failed to inform clients about his impairment, which in part was caused by Mr. Singer's non-prescribed drug use.
W. Russell Van Camp of Spokane, admitted to the bar in 1973, was disbarred for failure to abide by a client's decisions, charging unreasonable fees, and dishonest conduct, among other charges.
He required one client to pay to him a $25,000 initial "retainer" fee, but did not explain
to the client how the fee would be calculated or whether it was refundable, the bar says. The same day, Van Camp phoned the opposing counsel and joked that the other attorney owed him a box of chocolates for all the money he would make on the case.
Later that day, opposing counsel faxed Mr. Van Camp a letter that mentioned "the box of chocolates" remark as tongue-in-cheek, and also referenced a settlement offer and proposed permanent injunction as attached; however, the attachment was not transmitted with the letter. The letter referenced opposing party's desire to quickly resolve the case without further litigation. Mr. Van Camp did not respond to the letter or request the missing attachment, except to call opposing counsel and express displeasure at seeing the "chocolates" remark in writing.
A year later, the client fired Van Camp after filing a grievance over fees and delays and only belatedly learning of the settlement offer; he then hired another attorney who wrapped up the case for $500. During its investigation, the bar says, Van Camp submitted "differing and exaggerated time reconstructions based on hours he claimed to have worked in order to justify the amount of his fee. Mr. Van Camp had little or no work to show for it."
Footnote for anyone celebrating three fewer attorneys in our midst: the bar lists 30,000 still at work.