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Legal Ethics

Procrastinating Lawyer’s Lies About Estate Work Require Disbarment, Says Top NH Court

Posted Jul 22, 2010 2:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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For nearly five years after Bertha McInnes died on Sept. 12, 1998, attorney Lynn Morse worked on her $461,500 estate, filing an appearance in Rockingham County Probate Court within 10 days of her death.

Again and again, Morse sought delays and promised to meet deadlines but didn't. When the executrix, Ruth Ann Mize, called him, he never responded, she says. After Mize replaced Morse with another lawyer in mid-2003, he didn't transfer the file to the new attorney for months. Morse also claimed to have filed tax returns for the estate when, in fact, he had not, recounts the New Hampshire Supreme Court in an attorney discipline opinion provided by Leagle.

During this time, at least one of the elderly beneficiaries of McInnes' estate died without receiving a final payout.

Although its professional conduct committee recommended that Morse be suspended for two years, citing, among other mitigating factors, the nearly 40-year practitioner's lack of a selfish motive and good reputation in his community, the supreme court said disbarment was required due to Morse's deliberate lies.

"Morse caused serious injury to Mize, the estate and its legatees," the court writes, citing earlier precedent. "He lied to his client and to the tribunal."

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