WA Supreme Court: Russell Kenneth Jones Disbarred Over Mother's Estate
In Washington, attorneys regulate ourselves. We have a bar association that has a discipline arm, and it can be appealed through the high court. Honestly, I think we tend to be harsher on our own than others would be. I think that is a good thing, as it maintains the integrity of the courts and the profession.
As a side note, these disciplinary notices used to be in the bar magazine I would receive every month. Now, instead of giving the attorneys the facts of each case, you have to go online to look. I don’t think that is a good thing. Seeing the pitfalls of others helps you know what not to do when a similar situation arises. That’s my two cents.
So what did Jones do to warrant disbarment? Well, he handled his mother’s estate when she passed. He lived in the house his mom had owned rent free (instead of paying a fair value rent to his brothers), he refused to turn over documents when sued about the estate, and he lied in responses to discovery.
There’s a simple lesson here. Try to stay out of administering an estate where you have a personal stake in the matter. Greed can get the better of anyone. When it happens to a lawyer, well, you see the results. The opinion is a great read of some of the obligations that come out of being personal representative of an estate.