A six-figure failure to pay child support warranted disbarment of an attorney after more than 20 years in practice, the Supreme Court of Kentucky has held.
In its Feb. 19 order, the court cited no other cases involving child support delinquencies. However, it said Daniel Warren James, of Lexington, had breached his duties to follow a court order, honor his statutory obligations, and conduct himself in a way that is above reproach, according to this report on ABAJournal.com.
“We believe that the duty of a parent to support his or her children is no less important than the duty of an attorney to act responsibly when handling client funds, and we have not hesitated to disbar attorneys for mishandling client funds,” the court said. “Furthermore, as officers of the court, attorneys have a duty to follow court orders, and we have disbarred attorneys for, in part, failing to do so.”
While not considered punishment, disbarment seems harsher than the resolution of James’ criminal case in January 2013. The lawyer pleaded guilty to flagrant nonsupport and was sentenced to probation, along with a restitution order of $233,000 payable at just $800 a month. (At that rate, the payments would last more than 24 years.)
This was not, however, James’ first run-in with Kentucky’s equivalent of Bar Counsel. Admitted in 1991, he was suspended for five years in April 2013 for misconduct involving client fees — an ethical lapse he attributed to going off his medication for a mental health condition.
The court also noted that he had not responded to the disciplinary complaint, although he told the state bar association that he planned to do so.