Iowa Attorney Sandra Suarez-Quilty​​​​​​​ Disbarred: No Colorable Claim

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Wow - Iowa took its time but FINALLY disbarred attorney Suarez-Quilty. She certainly had to work for it - over and over again.

Iowa Attorney Sandra Suarez-Quilty Disbarred: No Colorable Claim

Misappropriation has resulted in an attorney's license revocation by the Iowa Supreme Court

Suarez-Quilty represented Darlena McElroy in a guardianship case involving McElroy’s elderly father, Percy McElroy (Percy). After McElroy was enjoined from acting on Percy’s behalf, Suarez-Quilty and McElroy met with Percy on January 29, 2013, without the knowledge or consent of his attorney, Jessica Chandler, or his guardian ad litem, Sarah Dewein. While she was meeting with Percy, Suarez-Quilty left Chandler a voicemail proclaiming, “I am sitting with your client . . . and we have some things we would like to discuss with you.” Chandler returned the call immediately to ask why Suarez-Quilty was meeting with Percy, to which Suarez-Quilty responded, “I represent him now.”

In a second phone call that day, Suarez-Quilty informed Chandler that McElroy was going to remove Percy from his location. Dewein and a social worker immediately responded to Percy’s location to find Suarez-Quilty there with Percy. When Dewein confronted Suarez-Quilty with a copy of the injunction enjoining McElroy from acting as Percy’s guardian, Suarez-Quilty continued to insist that McElroy would act as Percy’s guardian. Despite these facts, at a hearing in this case conducted on February 8, Suarez-Quilty told the judge, “I did not visit with Mr. McElroy [on January 29] with regard to anything as it relates to this specific matter.”

She engaged in unauthorized practice after a disability suspension for a operating under the influence conviction and later picked up a third offense.

The misappropriations involved fees.

The court

While the commission found Suarez-Quilty violated numerous ethical rules with regard to her representation of multiple clients, the crux of this appeal focuses on the commission’s finding that Suarez-Quilty misappropriated client funds in violation of rule 32:8.4(c) in the Rawson and Keny matters. It was ultimately this finding that led the commission to recommend revocation of her license to practice law in Iowa, and this is the finding we will address first since it is the most severe...

In the Rawson matter, the commission relied on Suarez-Quilty’s stipulation to violating Iowa Code sections 715A.6(1)(a)(3) and 715A.6(2)(b) in support of its finding that she violated rule 32:8.4(c). Under Iowa Code section 715A.6(1)(a)(3), “[a] person commits a public offense by using a credit card for the purpose of obtaining property or services with knowledge of any of the following: . . . [f]or any other reason the use of the credit card is unauthorized.” Iowa Code § 715A.6(1)(a)(3) (2015). The unauthorized use of a credit card when the value “sought to be secured by means of the credit card is greater than one thousand but not more than ten thousand dollars” is a class “D” felony. Id. § 715A.6(2)(b).

The evidence presented in the stipulation is sufficient to show, by a convincing preponderance of the evidence, Suarez-Quilty committed unauthorized use of a credit card to obtain property or services valued at $5000. Suarez-Quilty admitted to knowingly using a Square Magstripe Reader that was plugged into her iOs or Android device to swipe Eckert’s credit card. The record shows Suarez-Quilty made this charge of $5000 to Eckert’s Chase Freedom Visa credit card on July 10, 2015. Five days prior to committing this unauthorized use, Rawson emailed Suarez-Quilty to let her know that he was disputing the legal fees she claimed he still owed. Rawson requested that Suarez-Quilty “cease all further communication with [him] in regards to collections of [his] account,” and informed her that he would “opt for arbitration of the billing for [his] account if [she] continue[d] to harass [him] either by email, text, or phone call.” Thus, it was clear that Suarez-Quilty did not have authorization to charge Eckert’s credit card for $5000 for the work Suarez-Quilty performed in the Rawson matter since she was aware the fees were being disputed.

Suarez-Quilty also clearly acknowledged her unauthorized use of the credit card in her stipulation...

In the Keny matter, the commission noted in its finding that Suarez-Quilty had “no reasonable explanation for not returning the $630 given to her to cover the cost of the appeal,” nor did she have a colorable future claim to the $630. The commission also relied on Suarez-Quilty’s stipulation that she “exhausted Mr. Keny’s retainer and kept the $630 to which she had no claim” in its finding. This conversion amounts to a violation of Iowa Code sections 714.1(2) (governing misappropriation of property held in trust for personal use), and 714.2(3) (theft of property greater than $500 but less than $1000 is theft in the third degree). The Board has presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate Suarez-Quilty converted Keny’s funds for her personal use. Suarez-Quilty admitted to knowingly keeping these funds without any future colorable claim to them, and the record supports this stipulation. Thus, we also find Suarez-Quilty knowingly misappropriated and converted client funds in the Keny matter in violation of rule 32:8.4(c).

Sanction

While it may be debatable whether Suarez-Quilty had a colorable future claim to the funds in the Rawson matter, it is clear that she did not have a colorable future claim to the funds she converted in the Keny  matter. This leads us to the conclusion that she misappropriated client funds. In the stipulated facts, Suarez-Quilty admits that she did not have a colorable future claim to the funds and converted them for her personal use in the Keny matter. She also failed to present any evidence to the  contrary. “This finding is critical to the outcome of this proceeding and makes it unnecessary for us to discuss the other rule violations in detail.” Guthrie, 901 N.W.2d at 500. Because of this finding, “we need not consider mitigating and aggravating factors that may be present here.” Id. We agree with the Board that revocation is the appropriate sanction in this case.

The briefs can be accessed here.

Source: Professional Legal Blog