Legal Ethics

Lawyer who spent jailed client's $48K without his permission loses license for 2 years


An Oklahoma lawyer who spent over $48,000 from a jailed client without his permission has had her law license suspended for two years.

Lagailda F. Barnes didn’t suffer a more severe sanction because she repaid the money in full before an attorney discipline case got going, was cooperative in the proceedings, had never been disciplined before and had a history of doing pro bono work, the Oklahoma Supreme Court explains in a Tuesday opinion (PDF).

The client received $48,496.12 from a probate matter which Barnes was supposed to hold for him until he got out of prison. However, after his release in 2011 she initially told him the money was unavailable, then admitted she had taken it. Months later, after she was able to get a loan, she repaid all of the money with interest. Prior to that, she made several payments of $1,000 each.

Barnes had a power of attorney that authorized her to receive and disburse the inheritance, the opinion notes.

Barnes must also pay a little under $1,000 to cover the cost of the legal ethics case. Another lawyer who represented the ex-inmate in efforts to obtain repayment from Barnes did not take a fee.

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog

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