Bowler v. Ghent
An attorney who allegedly uses other clients' funds to pay back an estate fails to protect clients' funds, in violation of Rule 1.15(b). A bank informed the Statewide Grievance Committee about an overdraft in the IOLTA bank account of the respondent attorney, Robert Ghent of Waterbury. Disciplinary Counsel allegedly discovered numerous discrepancies between the attorney's ledger and bank statements. Ghent claimed that when he received funds from an estate, he mistakenly concluded that the money constituted his attorney's fees for years of legal work. The respondent claimed that he returned the funds when requested by the estate and incurred a bank overdraft in the process. Allegedly, the respondent attorney admitted that he owes money to the Internal Revenue Service and that he kept attorneys' fees that he had earned in his IOLTA account. The Statewide Grievance Committee found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the respondent attorney commingled his personal funds with client funds, in violation of Rule 1.15(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, because he kept the attorneys' fees that belonged to him in his IOLTA account. The Statewide Grievance Committee also found that the respondent attorney failed to keep accurate records of his IOLTA account, in violation of Rule 1.15(b) and (i). The Statewide Grievance Committee found that the respondent attorney failed to protect clients' funds, in violation of Rule 1.15(b). Allegedly, the respondent used $66,403 in other clients' funds to pay back the estate. The respondent, wrote the committee, misused clients' funds. The respondent previously has been the subject of three grievance complaints as a result of 19 overdrafts. The respondent already has been reprimanded and taken continuing legal education courses in law office management and legal ethics. "The Respondent's disciplinary history," wrote the Statewide Grievance Committee, "reflects a serious inability . . . to comply with the ethical rules relating to his clients' funds account." The Statewide Grievance Committee ordered the respondent's presentment to Superior Court for discipline.