Chief Disciplinary Counsel v. Rozbicki
An attorney who allegedly places his own interests in reimbursement of his loan to the decedent ahead of his responsibility to the estate, as the executor of the estate, violates Rule 1.7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The defendant, Attorney Zbigniew Rozbicki, loaned his paralegal $20,000. After she passed away in 2007, he was named executor of her estate. Rozbicki allegedly withdrew $20,000 from the estate account, to pay himself back. Rozbicki also sought attorneys' fees, for settling the decedent's personal-injury suit for $145,000. Estate beneficiaries objected to Rozbicki's attorneys' fees, and he returned $20,000 to the estate. Disciplinary counsel requested that the court suspend Rozbicki for five years, for alleged violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The court found that Rozbicki allegedly distributed $20,000 to himself, without court approval, obstructed disciplinary proceedings when he continued to argue decided matters, and issued false and misleading statements. Rozbicki assumed fiduciary responsibilities to the beneficiaries when he became the estate executor. Rozbicki violated Rule 1.7, because he placed his own interests in reimbursement of his loan payment ahead of his responsibility to the estate when he paid himself $20,000, without court approval. After the beneficiaries objected to attorneys' fees, Rozbicki filed a suit alleging constructive trust, although there was no reasonable basis to request a constructive trust remedy. The suit delayed the estate administration and harassed the decedent's relatives and beneficiaries. Rozbicki violated Rule 1.3, because he did not diligently represent the interests of the estate. Rozbicki failed to exercise independent professional judgment and to provide candid advice to beneficiaries, in violation of Rules 1.4(b) and 2.1. Rozbicki filed a suit intended to harass, embarrass and burden the decedent's twin sister and the decedent's brother, and to delay the estate administration, in violation of Rule 4.4(a). Allegedly, Rozbicki made misleading statements to the court and interfered with the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(4). Previously, in 1990, Rozbicki received a three-month suspension. In the present matter, Rozbicki's conduct was motivated by his desire to have his fees approved without review or objection. The court ordered a two-year suspension.