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Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Kieffer-Garrison

Supreme Court of Iowa

May 30, 2014

IOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, Complainant,
v.
LORI JO KIEFFER-GARRISON, Respondent

As Amended June 20, 2014.

Page 490

On review of the report of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa. Review of a report filed by the Grievance Commission recommending suspension of an attorney's license.

Charles L. Harrington and Wendell J. Harms, Des Moines, for complainant.

Lori J. Kieffer-Garrison, Pro se, Davenport.

OPINION

Page 491

HECHT, Justice.

The Iowa Supreme Court Disciplinary Board (Board) charged an attorney with violations of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct after she repeatedly missed appellate deadlines in several criminal cases, received twenty default notices as a consequence of those missed deadlines, failed to pay resulting penalties in a timely fashion over a period of two years, and allegedly made a knowingly false statement to the court. After a hearing, a division of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa found the attorney's actions violated several ethical rules and recommended a suspension of her license to practice law. Upon our review, we find the Board proved the alleged violations, and we conclude the appropriate sanction is a suspension of the attorney's license for a period of six months.

I. Background Facts and Prior Proceedings.

Lori Jo Kieffer-Garrison was first licensed to practice law in Iowa in 2002.[1] She was privately admonished in 2009 and 2010, each time for failure to cure a notice of default from the clerk of this court. Both private admonitions were based on violations of Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct 32:1.3 and 32:8.4(d).

The Board's complaint in this case alleged Kieffer-Garrison's pattern of neglecting her obligation to comply with the deadlines imposed by our rules of appellate procedure continued in 2011 and 2012. In particular, the amended complaint alleged and Kieffer-Garrison admitted she received more than twenty notices of default after failing to meet various deadlines and timely pay monetary penalties for such defaults in nine separate criminal case appeals. The Board alleged--and Kieffer Garrison admitted--these failures and defaults constituted violations of rules 32:1.3 (lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client); 32:3.2 (lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client); 32:3.4(c) (lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); and 32:8.4(d) (professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice).

In a separate count of the amended complaint, the Board alleged Kieffer-Garrison

Page 492

falsely represented to both her client, Anthony McGee, and the clerk of this court that she had timely filed by mail an application for further review in a postconviction appeal. This conduct, the Board alleged, violated rules 32:1.2(a) (lawyer shall abide by a client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation), 32:1.3, 32:3.2, 32:3.3(a)(1) (lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of fact to a tribunal), 32:3.4(c), and 32:8.4(d). Kieffer-Garrison denied the Board's allegations in this count and testified before the commission that she prepared the application for further review and followed her routine office procedure for timely filing it through the mail.

The commission found the Board met its burden of proving Kieffer-Garrison violated rules 32:1.3, 32:3.2, 32:3.4(c), and 32:8.4(d) as a consequence of her serial failures to comply with deadlines imposed by our rules of appellate procedure. The commission also found Kieffer-Garrison violated rules 32:1.2(a), 32:1.3, 32:3.2, 32:3.3(a)(1), 32:3.4(c), and 32:8.4(d) in failing to prepare and timely file the ...


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