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Lawyer agrees to disbarment, restitution.

Byline: Lee Dryden

An attorney consented to disbarment after admitting he committed professional misconduct, including practicing law while suspended.

The disbarment notice for Keith T. Murphy, P 29864 (MiLW No. 12-98425, 1 page) of White Lake was issued Sept. 5.

The case was assigned to Tri-County Hearing Panel No. 67, which included chairperson Michael L. Battersby and members Kirsten E. Lirell and Mark G. Cooper. Sarah C. Lindsey represented the Attorney Grievance Commission while Murphy represented himself.

Murphy's disciplinary record includes two one-year suspensions, one of which was for holding himself out as an attorney while suspended. The other included violations such as failing to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their matters and failing to promptly pay or deliver funds which his clients are entitled to receive.

The case

On June 14, the grievance administrator filed a formal complaint alleging that Murphy committed professional misconduct by practicing law during a suspension which he advised his client of after 16 months of representation, according to the hearing panel report.

A scheduled hearing date was adjourned by a joint motion filed by the parties, as they had reached a settlement and filed a Stipulation for Consent Order of Discipline. It was determined that the matter would be resolved without a hearing and Murphy would be disbarred.

The agreement was approved by the Attorney Grievance Commission and accepted by the hearing panel.

"The stipulation contained respondent's admissions that he committed acts of professional misconduct, including practicing law during the period of his suspension when he met with a client, accepted a retainer, sent correspondence on his client's behalf in which he held himself out as an attorney, and made false statements in response to a request for investigation," according to the disbarment notice.

Regarding violations of professional conduct and court rules and based on Murphy's admissions and the stipulation the panel found that Murphy practiced law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction; knowingly made a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter; knowingly made a misrepresentation of facts or circumstances surrounding a request for investigation; practiced law after the period of his suspension; had contact, in person, by telephone, and by electronic means, with clients; and held himself out as an attorney.

Discipline

The stipulation contains the parties' assertion that disbarment is the appropriate discipline to be imposed in this matter under two different standards of the American Bar Association Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions.

ABA Standard 8.1 (Prior Discipline Orders) states disbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer intentionally or knowingly violates the terms of a prior disciplinary order and such violation causes injury or potential injury to a client, the public, the legal system, or the profession; or has been suspended for the same or similar misconduct, and intentionally or knowingly engages in further similar acts of misconduct that cause injury or potential injury to a client, the public, the legal system, or the profession.

ABA Standard 5.11(b) (Violations of Duties Owed to the Public; Failure to Maintain Personal Integrity) states disbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer engages in any other intentional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation that seriously adversely reflects on the lawyer's fitness to practice.

Aggravating factors considered by the parties include prior disciplinary offenses that included the two suspensions and a reprimand, and substantial experience in the practice of law as Murphy was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 1979.

Mitigating factors included delay in disciplinary proceedings as the underlying conduct that led to the request for investigation took place in 2012 and 2013, and Murphy accepting responsibility and expressing remorse since the filing of the formal complaint.

In accordance with the stipulation of the parties, the hearing panel ordered that Murphy be disbarred and pay restitution of $1,000 to one complainant. Costs totaling $757.83 were assessed.

If you would like to comment on this story, email Lee Dryden at ldryden@mi.lawyersweekly.com.

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Title Annotation:Keith T. Murphy
Author:Dryden, Lee
Publication:Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Date:Oct 2, 2018
Words:681
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