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Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Eslick

Supreme Court of Iowa

January 30, 2015

IOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, Complainant,
v.
CAMI N. ESLICK, Respondent

On review of the report of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa. The grievance commission reports an attorney violated several court rules and rules of professional conduct and recommends suspension.

Charles L. Harrington, David J. Grace (until withdrawal), and Elizabeth E. Quinlan, Des Moines, for complainant.

Cami N. Eslick, Indianola, Pro se.

OPINION

Page 199

HECHT, Justice.

The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board (the Board) charged attorney Cami Noelle Eslick with violating rules of professional conduct after a trust account audit revealed numerous deficiencies. Eslick admitted all allegations in the Board's complaint. After a hearing, the Grievance Commission found Eslick violated several rules and recommended suspension of her license for thirty days.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Eslick was admitted to the Iowa bar in 2005. She has operated her solo practice in Warren County since 2008. In 2011, an auditor from the Client Security Commission instructed Eslick to rectify several deficiencies in her trust accounting practices. Following up on those instructions, the Client Security Commission audited Eslick again in January 2013 after she received several trust account overdraft notices. The auditor requested numerous documents from Eslick, including trust account bank statements, receipt and disbursement journals, ledger records, reconciliations, and a check register. However, Eslick failed to provide them promptly.

A month passed, and the auditor's request for access to Eslick's records had not been honored. Eslick and the auditor attempted to meet for a follow-up appointment several times, but weather and illness interfered and the appointment was never rescheduled. The Client Security Commission issued a notice of delinquency

Page 200

on March 22, 2013, and on April 8, Eslick produced some of the requested documents. When she provided them, Eslick stated, " I will admit my account is a mess. I kept thinking I could get it straightened out, but I didn't realize h[ow] bad of a mess it was."

The auditor examined the documents and found the funds in Eslick's trust account were nearly $8000 short. In several instances, Eslick's records showed clients were credited for funds received, but no corresponding deposits were made to the trust account. Exacerbating the problem, Eslick failed to maintain records mandated bye court rules and neglected her obligation to perform monthly trust account reconciliations. Further, the auditor determined Eslick had commingled personal funds--derived from an operating loan from her father--with client funds in the trust account. Eslick explained that she considered the clients' funds she didn't deposit in the trust account " as funds being removed from" that operating loan. However, she completely depleted the loaned funds and withdrew client funds before earning them. In April 2013, Eslick deposited funds to bring the trust account into balance.

On May 6, 2014, the Board filed a complaint with the grievance commission alleging Eslick violated Iowa Rule of Professional Conduct 32:1.15 and Iowa Court Rules 45.1, 45.2, and 45.7. The complaint alleged the audit revealed several instances of misconduct on Eslick's part: failing to deposit all unearned fees and prepaid expenses into her trust account, commingling personal funds with those of her clients, failing to maintain a receipt and disbursement journal and check ledger for the trust account, failing to perform trust account reconciliations, withdrawing fees from the account without notifying clients, failing to maintain copies of accountings to clients, and operating with a deficiency of nearly $8000 in her trust account. On June 27, 2014, Eslick filed an answer admitting each of the violations alleged in the complaint.

On August 27, 2014, the matter came on for hearing before the grievance commission. Eslick expressed remorse, stating, " There are no excuses for not keeping my books. I knew better." She explained she had neglected her trust accounting obligations because she took on more clients than she could handle and became overwhelmed. She noted despite her record-keeping and accounting missteps, no clients were financially harmed; and since the 2013 audit, she has reformed her trust accounting procedures such that her accounts balance " to the penny" every month. Further, she now takes medication for attention deficit disorder and has learned coping skills through therapy. These measures, she explained, now equip her to manage her very ...


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