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Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Cepican

Supreme Court of Iowa

April 3, 2015

IOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, Complainant,
v.
JOHN E. CEPICAN, Respondent

On review of the report of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa. Grievance commission recommended revocation of attorney's license.

LICENSE SUSPENDED.

Charles L. Harrington and David J. Grace (until withdrawal) then Amanda K. Robinson, Des Moines, for complainant.

John E. Cepican, Bettendorf, Pro se.

All justices concur except Wiggins, J., who takes no part.

OPINION

Page 842

CADY, Chief Justice.

The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board charged John E. Cepican with violating the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct pertaining to neglect of client matters, failure to follow trust account procedures upon receipt of retainers, and failure to respond to the Board. The Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa found Cepican converted client funds without a colorable future claim to them. It recommended Cepican's license to practice law be revoked. On our review, we find Cepican violated the rules of professional conduct, but he was not provided with adequate advance notice that he was charged with converting client funds. We suspend his license to practice law for a period not less than six months.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

John Cepican is an Iowa lawyer. He was admitted to practice law in 1974

Page 843

and developed a practice primarily limited to the area of intellectual property. He maintained an office in Bettendorf, but was not actively engaged in his practice by the time this disciplinary action proceeded to hearing. Cepican is sixty-six years old.

The Board brought a three-count complaint against Cepican alleging various violations of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct involving his actions with three clients. Each count in the complaint involved a different client, and the evidence at the hearing showed Cepican caused substantial heartache and harm to each of them. In the first count, Cepican represented a client to secure a patent for an invention involving a toy. Over time, he neglected to perform certain legal services and failed to adequately communicate with the client. After the client brought a complaint against him, Cepican failed to reply to the Board on numerous occasions.

The two other counts in the complaint also involved neglect of client matters. One of the counts involved a complex scientific invention by the client. The neglect by Cepican was serious enough for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to issue notices of abandonment of the patent application of the client. The conduct by Cepican in this and ...


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