86-year-old lawyer caught on video groping multiple clients avoids disbarment
An 86-year-old Missouri lawyer has been suspended, but not disbarred, for groping five clients and touching another on the buttocks—all incidents that were caught on video.
The Missouri Supreme Court imposed the indefinite suspension in a 4-3 decision March 21, report the Kansas City Star and the Associated Press.
Above the Law and the Legal Profession Blog also noted the decision.
The lawyer, Dan K. Purdy of Missouri, is “indefinitely suspended with no leave to apply for reinstatement for 12 months.”
A disciplinary panel had recommended disbarment for Purdy, a lawyer based in Osceola, Missouri. Judge Zel M. Fischer argued in a dissent that disbarment would have been the right decision in light of Purdy’s “egregious and outrageous conduct.” He was joined by two other judges.
“There may have been a time when a temporary suspension was an adequate punishment for sexually assaulting or harassing a client, vulnerable or otherwise … but, in my view, that time is long gone,” Fischer wrote.
“Implicit in the principal opinion’s analysis is that Mr. Purdy only needs to be indefinitely suspended with no leave to apply for reinstatement for one year because of his advanced age. In my view, neither the race, gender, ethnicity nor age of an attorney should be taken into consideration to determine appropriate discipline.”
Video footage from September 2020 had confirmed that Purdy made sexual advances toward four female clients in a jail interview room that included kissing and reaching underneath their jumpsuits. Courtroom video caught Purdy touching a client’s buttocks in March 2021, but the client said she didn’t think that the touching was inappropriate. A sixth client who was a passenger in Purdy’s car recorded a video in September 2021 that showed him rub her breast while driving.
One of the women on the jail video described Purdy as a “little bit of a pervert.”
Purdy had stated that he thought that his clients were “enticing” him. He testified that he wouldn’t commit similar acts in the future, which a disciplinary hearing panel found to be disingenuous because he continued his pattern of improper conduct after the ethics case was filed against him.
Purdy also has a history of disciplinary offenses, receiving several admonishments and one reprimand for violating ethics rules regarding communication, safeguarding property, diligence and responsibility toward legal assistants. He also received a stayed suspension for notarizing documents, even though he didn’t witness his client’s signature.
But he had made a full disclosure to the disciplinary board and had submitted multiple letters attesting to his good character. One letter from a court clerk said Purdy routinely traveled statewide to represent indigent clients.
Writing for the majority, Judge George W. Draper III said the suspension was consistent with punishment for past sexual misconduct by lawyers. In addition, Purdy has already been on interim suspension for 15 months.
Purdy had argued that he needed no further discipline, or in the alternative, he should receive an indefinite suspension “with leave to apply for reinstatement after six months.”
The ABA Journal was unable to reach Purdy at a number found online because the voicemail box was full. His lawyer, Daniel F. Church, did not immediately respond to an email and voicemail seeking comment.