review of the report of the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance
grievance commission found violations of numerous rules and
recommended respondent's license be suspended for three
van Brederode and Wendell J. Harms, Des Moines, for
Alfredo Parrish of Parrish, Kruidenier, Dunn, Boles, Gribble,
Gentry, Brown & Bergmann LLP, Des Moines (until
withdrawal), and then Royce D. Turner, West Des Moines, pro
se, for respondent.
D. Turner, over a span of twenty months, was repeatedly
rebuked by state and federal judges for missing hearings and
violating court rules. He was found in contempt several
times. Three of his clients were arrested and two were jailed
for missing hearings he overlooked. Despite an ongoing audit,
Turner continued to flout basic requirements for client trust
Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board brought a
complaint against Turner alleging multiple violations of the
Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct. He delayed responding to
the Board's inquiries and complaints. Our court imposed a
five-month interim suspension to protect the public. We
permitted Turner's return to practice with the help of an
experienced attorney under stipulated limitations pending
resolution of the disciplinary charges.
parties submitted a stipulation of facts. A division of the
Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission found violations of
numerous rules. Noting Turner's inexperience and
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the
commission recommended a three-month suspension of his
license to practice law with conditions on his reinstatement.
The Board recommends a suspension of twelve to eighteen
months. Based on our de novo review, we now suspend
Turner's license to practice law for one year from the
date of this opinion with conditions on his reinstatement.
sole practitioners who lack mentors and take on cases without
the requisite experience are at greater risk of making
mistakes. Any Iowa lawyer should be concerned about receiving
one rebuke from a judge. Attorneys should view a single
mistake as a wake-up call to reexamine practices or get help
to avoid further missteps. Continuing to make the same
mistakes without correcting behavior invariably leads to more
trouble, as shown here. According to the adage commonly
attributed to Will Rogers, "good judgment comes from
experience, and a lot of that comes from bad
judgment." We hope Turner gains better judgment from
his bad experiences.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
obtained his Iowa law license in 2013 and began a solo
practice in Polk County. He suffers from ADHD and depression.
Turner receives treatment and takes medication for those
conditions. This case arises from Turner's representation
of many clients. We find the following facts as stipulated or
otherwise established in the record and review them in the
sequence alleged in the Board's second amended complaint.
Untimely Response to Complaint (Count I).
January 26, 2015, Turner received from the Board a complete
copy of an ethics complaint filed by K.D. regarding
Turner's relationship with W.B. After Turner failed to
respond, the Board mailed him a second copy by certified mail
that the postal service returned after Turner declined to
retrieve it. On May 7, at Turner's request, the Board
mailed Turner a third copy and extended his deadline to
respond to May 29. Turner still did not respond by this
23, the Board informed Turner by email that it would seek a
suspension of his law license due to his failure to respond.
The next day, the Board filed a certificate of noncompliance
with this court stating that Turner failed to respond and
asking the court to issue a notice of possible temporary
suspension of Turner's license. Turner replied to the
Board's email, stating he had not yet received a complete
copy of the complaint. The Board sent Turner a fourth copy.
Turner substantively responded to the complaint on July
28-six months after he first received it. Turner admits he
knowingly failed to respond to the Board's lawful demand
for information. He attributed his lack of responsiveness
during this period to his ADHD and depression.
The Philip and Jackson Representations (Count II).
September 2014, Agok Philip retained Turner to represent him
in four criminal cases in Polk County. Philip made seven
payments to Turner totaling $1075, but Turner failed to
deposit any of these sums in his client trust account. Turner
stipulated that he was "not completely familiar with the
trust account process" at that time. Turner initially
filed appearances in only two of Philip's four cases,
prompting judicial inquiries into his role in the other two.
He belatedly filed one appearance only after repeated
reminders by the court and even then without the requisite
certificate of service.
Jackson retained Turner to represent him in two criminal
cases in Polk County scheduled for a plea hearing on December
10. Jackson made fourteen payments to Turner totaling $1880,
but none were deposited into Turner's client trust
account. On December 9, Turner filed motions to continue but
did not bring these motions to the assigned judge's
attention. Neither Jackson nor Turner appeared at the
scheduled plea hearing the next day. The judge denied the
motions to continue and issued warrants for Jackson's
arrest. The Polk County Sheriff arrested Jackson for failure
March 9, 2015, Turner received the Board's complaint
regarding his representations of Philip and Jackson. Turner
failed to respond. On April 7, the Board sent Turner a second
notice of the complaint by restricted certified mail. Turner
failed to claim this letter. On June 2, the Board again
served the complaint by certified mail, and Turner again
failed to claim the letter. The Polk County Sheriff
personally served Turner with the complaint on July 9. Turner
claimed he had already responded to this complaint, and the
Board replied that it had not received his response. The
Board extended Turner's response deadline to July 21 at
his request, but Turner missed the extended deadline. He
substantively responded to this complaint only after the
Board filed its certificate of noncompliance with this court
on July 24, more than four months after first receiving it.
Turner concedes he knowingly failed to respond to the
Board's lawful demand for information.
Bankruptcy Cases (Count III).
admits he "was not as familiar as he should have been
with bankruptcy cases." On May 5, 2014, he presented
paper bankruptcy petitions for seven individuals, even though
electronic filing in that forum has been mandatory since
2000. His subsequent rule violations and failure to attend
hearings led to a number of rebukes, dismissals, and other
sanctions, as follows.
filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case for Steve Cummings. Turner
reported that his fee was $875. The U.S. Trustee moved to
dismiss the bankruptcy action and to order Turner to refund
the fees. The court scheduled a hearing on these motions.
Turner failed to attend the hearing, and the court granted
both motions. A week later, Turner filed a second bankruptcy
petition for Cummings that omitted the required listing of
creditors, schedules, and statement of financial affairs. The
U.S. Trustee moved for an order to show cause for Turner to
"explain his failure to comply with the Order of this
Court, the continued deficiencies with his filing[s] . . .,
his failure to appear at hearings and his overall practice
before the Court." Following a hearing, the court
ordered Turner to "supply the bankruptcy schedules
bearing his clients' signatures" and to deliver
"the original power of attorney documents that were
executed involving any" of the clients identified in the
order by the next day. The court extended by six days the
deadline for Turner to refund the $875 fee to Cummings. Two
days after the deadline for refunding Cummings's fee,
Turner moved to vacate the refund order. The U.S. Trustee
then filed a status report noting Turner's noncompliance.
filed a separate Chapter 7 bankruptcy case for Laura Cummings
without her required signatures, and the court scheduled a
hearing after Turner failed to correct these omissions.
Neither Turner nor Cummings attended the hearing, and the
court dismissed the case. The court ordered Turner to attend
training on the court's electronic filing system. Turner
moved for relief from the order dismissing the case, stating
he missed the hearing due to illness. The U.S. Trustee
objected due to other problems in documents submitted by
Turner. The court scheduled a hearing on the motion. Turner
also filed a motion to reinstate the case. Neither Turner nor
Cummings attended the hearing, and the court denied
Turner's motions. Turner then filed a second bankruptcy
case but omitted the filing fee or application to pay the fee
in installments and omitted the requisite schedules,
statement of financial affairs, credit counseling
certificate, and listing of creditors. The bankruptcy trustee
responded with a motion for order to show cause. The court
scheduled a hearing, which Turner failed to attend. The court
dismissed the second petition. A new lawyer took over
filed a Chapter 7 petition for Kelly Willard. The U.S.
Trustee moved to compel the filing of additional and
corrected documents and then moved to dismiss because Willard
had not obtained the requisite credit counseling. Turner
objected to the motion to dismiss, and the court scheduled a
hearing. A day before the hearing, Turner filed a motion to
withdraw Willard's petition. The court granted the motion
filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases for Walter Anhorn and
Lasandra Kearney, Turner filed reaffirmation agreements
between his clients and several creditors. The U.S. Trustee
objected to the reaffirmation agreements. Turner then moved
to withdraw the agreements. The U.S. Trustee moved to dismiss
Anhorn's case because Anhorn had not obtained credit
counseling as required. Turner objected to the motion to
dismiss and moved to withdraw Anhorn's petition one day
before the hearing, which Turner failed to attend. The court
dismissed the case. A new lawyer took over Anhorn's
Kearney's case, Turner filed a motion to dismiss, stating
that Kearney did not qualify under Chapter 7 and planned to
file under Chapter 11. After a hearing that Turner failed to
attend, Kearney appeared and stated she had not authorized
Turner to file the motion to dismiss. The court ordered the
motion to dismiss withdrawn and ordered Turner to refund $800
to Kearney that month. The court dismissed Kearney's case
after she failed to meet its deadline to obtain new counsel.
filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases for Fred Leaming and Rick
Andreas. The U.S. Trustee moved to dismiss both cases and
sought refunds of fees paid to Turner and an order directing
Turner to pay the fees associated with refiling each case.
The court dismissed both cases. Turner then moved to
reinstate the cases. He also filed a second bankruptcy
petition in each case. Following a hearing, the court ordered
Turner to refund $497.50 to Leaming. Turner did not comply,
so the U.S. Trustee moved for an order to show cause and to
dismiss Leaming's second case. The bankruptcy trustee
also moved for order to show cause, in part because Turner
failed to appear for the meeting of creditors and provided no
verified, justifiable excuse for his absence. After a
hearing, which Turner failed to attend, the court dismissed
Leaming's second case. The court entered judgment in
favor of Leaming and against Turner for $497.50. In
Andreas's second case, the court ordered Turner to
"address the deficiencies discussed on the record and
[to] take all steps necessary to ensure that he is able to
represent clients in bankruptcy cases in this forum in a
competent fashion." Andreas received his discharge in
bankruptcy a few months later.
December 5, 2014, the bankruptcy court judge filed an order
for Turner to show cause regarding cases he filed for
Cummings, Willard, Anhorn, and Kearney. The court identified
multiple problems, including that Turner filed documents that
violated electronic filing rules, lacked required information
and signatures, contained inaccurate information, or lacked
his client's authorization. The court also noted Turner
failed to appear at four court hearings, failed to abide by
court orders to produce records and refund fees, and may have
made misrepresentations to the court. The judge determined
that Turner's conduct violated Bankruptcy Rule 9011(b),
By presenting to the court (whether by signing, filing,
submitting, or later advocating) a petition, pleading,
written motion, or other paper, an attorney or unrepresented
party is certifying that to the best of the person's
knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry
reasonable under the circumstances,
(1) it is not being presented for any
improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary
delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal
contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a
nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or
reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law;
(3) the allegations and other factual
contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so
identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a
reasonable opportunity for further investigation or
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9011(b). The judge concluded that sanctions
were warranted and ordered Turner to complete four hours of
legal ethics education and four hours of legal education on
the "operation and management of a law office." The
court entered judgments against Turner in favor of these
clients. At the time of the commission's hearing, Turner
had not satisfied the judgments.
The Lindemann Representation (Count IV).
Lindemann retained Turner to represent him in a criminal case
in Polk County. Lindemann made nine payments to Turner
totaling $2190. Turner failed to deposit any of those
payments into his client trust account. Turner admits he
"was unaware of the rule that unearned fees had to be
deposited into his trust account." Turner failed to
appear for the pretrial conference and status hearing. Three
days before the next pretrial conference, Turner filed a
motion to continue. The court denied the motion. Turner and
Lindemann failed to appear at the pretrial conference, and
the judge issued a warrant for Lindemann's arrest.
Lindemann was arrested and had to post a $5000 cash-only bond
to be released from jail. Turner filed a motion to suppress
but did not attend the hearing on the motion, so the court
deemed the motion withdrawn. The court accepted
Lindemann's guilty plea two days later and scheduled his
sentencing hearing. Turner failed to attend Lindemann's
sentencing hearing. Lindemann waived representation by
counsel and proceeded with the sentencing pro se.
The Guisinger Representation (Count V).
2015, Todd Guisinger retained Turner to represent him in a
Polk County criminal case (third offense operating while
intoxicated (OWI)). Turner's fee agreement with Guisinger
stated, "Attorney Appearance fee shall be $600. Payments
of $130 shall be paid on 5/30/15, after the receipt of
attorney appearance fee, every Friday . . . for the duration
of the proceedings." This fee agreement did not set a
cap on the fees or establish a flat fee. Guisinger made
thirteen payments to Turner totaling $2190, but Turner
deposited none of the payments into his client trust account
because "he was fully unaware of the rule that unearned
fees had to be deposited into his trust account."
court rescheduled the pretrial conference three times at
Turner's request due to his "scheduling
conflicts." The court then appointed a public defender
to represent Guisinger, who had terminated Turner as his
lawyer. When asked to provide an accounting of the services
provided to Guisinger, Turner responded that he "would
not be able to provide invoices because [he] rendered
services to [Guisinger] on a flat fee as opposed to rendering
services on an hourly basis."
The Kemp Representation (Count VI).
Kemp retained Turner in March 2015 to represent him in a Polk
County criminal case. Kemp made twenty-six payments by
October totaling $3505. Turner did not deposit any payments
from Kemp into his client trust account because he was
"unaware of the rules." Turner filed a motion to
suppress fifteen days late and a motion for depositions at
state expense thirty-eight days late. The state resisted both
motions as untimely. The court denied the motion to suppress
as untimely, noting Turner "made no argument to justify
the late filing." After Turner failed to appear for a
change of plea hearing, the court appointed a public defender
to represent Kemp.
Contempt in Mahaska County (Count VII).
tried a case in Mahaska County, which the judge submitted to
the jury late afternoon. The next day, the jury reported it
was deadlocked. Because the judge was unable to contact
Turner, she declared a mistrial and rescheduled the jury
trial for a few months later. The judge conducted a hearing
in which Turner participated by phone. The judge found Turner
in contempt of court and ordered him to complete forty hours
of community service in Mahaska County and to pay the costs.
At the compliance hearing ten days later, the judge found
Turner in contempt of court for not complying with the
previous order. The court ordered Turner to serve thirty days
in jail with the opportunity to purge this contempt by
completing the previously ordered community service within
two months. Turner complied by completing the community
service, and the judge dismissed the contempt action at his
cost. At the time of the commission's hearing, Turner had
not paid the costs.
The Robinson and Dean Representations (Count VIII).
Robinson retained Turner to represent him in a criminal case
in Story County. They failed to attend a pretrial conference,
and the court issued a bench warrant for Robinson's
arrest. The next day, Turner filed a motion to recall the
warrant. The sole reason he gave for filing the motion was
"[t]hat the Court submitted a bench warrant." The
court found no good cause existed to recall the warrant and
denied the motion. The sheriff arrested Robinson, who was
then released without bond. Turner failed to appear for the
second day of Robinson's jury trial. The court declared a
mistrial and rescheduled the trial.
Dean retained Turner to represent him in a criminal case in
Story County. Turner and Dean failed to attend the
arraignment, and Turner neglected to file a written
arraignment. The court issued a bench warrant for Dean's
arrest. Turner then filed a motion to recall the bench
warrant and later filed a written arraignment and plea of not
guilty. The court canceled the arrest warrant.
Contempt in Story County (Count IX).
district court entered an order, requiring Turner to
"show cause, if any, why he should not be found in
contempt for having failed to appear" for the second day
of Robinson's jury trial in March 2016. Turner moved to
continue the hearing, which the court denied. Turner failed
to appear, and the court ordered a warrant for Turner's
arrest. Turner was arrested and released on bond. Another
judge found Turner in contempt. The court ordered Turner to
pay the jury costs of $1920.75 and a $500 fine. The order
provided that the payments were due immediately and would be
considered delinquent if not paid within thirty days. At the
time of the commission's hearing, Turner had not yet made
The Ramsey Representation (Count X).
January 2016, Brian Ramsey retained Turner to represent him
in a Polk County criminal case. The fee agreement between
Turner and Ramsey stated,
Attorney's retainer shall be $1000 and will vest with
Turner Law Office immediately upon receipt. The rate for
representation shall be $1000. Client shall pay $2, 000
total. $500 of the rate for representation shall vest
2/5/1. The remaining $500 shall vest 2/12/16.
pled guilty to second offense OWI. His plea agreement stated
that Ramsey would serve his sentence at the Fort Des Moines
Correctional Facility, but noted the court was not bound by
the agreement and could impose the maximum sentence. The
court sentenced Ramsey to prison for up to two years and set
the appeal bond at $2000, cash only. On April 29, 2016,
Turner moved for an order "Pro Nunc Tunc," asking
the court to strike the sentencing order "due to all
parties involved misunderstanding [Ramsey's] eligibility
for the Fort Des Moines Program." The motion asked
that Ramsey be released and "that a new pretrial
conference be set to determine the direction of
[Ramsey's] proceedings accordingly." The court
scheduled a hearing on this motion for May 13. On May 2,
Turner filed a notice of appeal.
13, the district court denied Turner's motion, stating,
"After discussing this matter, in the absence of
[Turner], the record establishes that the case has been
appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. Since the case is . . .
pending appeal, this Court no longer has jurisdiction of this
matter." The order noted that Turner arrived at the
hearing forty-five minutes late.
18, Turner and Ramsey entered into a second fee agreement.
Turner agreed to "represent [Ramsey's] interests . .
. whereby the following will be filed[:] withdraw of appeal,
motion to vacate judgment, and motion to suppress." The
agreement provided that a flat fee of $500 would "vest
with [Turner] immediately upon receipt."
Turner failed to file the combined certificate and to pay the
filing fee, the appellate clerk sent Turner a "Notice of
Default and Assessment of Penalty" on June 1. Turner did
not cure the default, so we dismissed Ramsey's appeal.
Turner then filed a motion to reconsider the district
court's judgment, and the district court scheduled a
hearing for July 18. On that date, the appellate clerk issued
procedendo. The district court established a briefing
schedule and scheduled a hearing for August 8. Ramsey and
Turner then entered into a third fee agreement providing that
Turner would represent Ramsey for the sentencing hearing for
a flat fee of $750.
the hearing on August 8, the district court denied
Ramsey's motion to reconsider the sentence, noting
"the court is not bound by any determination of counsel
by any plea negotiations." The court stated, "I
know that I did not promise you that you would be going to
the Fort Des Moines facility." The court explained,
"I just don't believe that that was an understanding
at the time, that you would not be going to prison if you
couldn't get into the Fort Des Moines."
The Dondo Representation (Count XI).
Dondo retained Turner to represent her in a Polk County
criminal case in January 2016. Turner filed three consecutive
motions to continue the pretrial conference. The court
granted the first two but denied the third. The court ordered
Dondo and Turner to personally appear on March 21. Turner
failed to appear. After waiting an hour and twenty-five
minutes, the court made a record with Dondo and the
prosecutor. The court set a hearing on the state's oral
motion for sanctions against Turner based on his failure to
appear. Turner requested a continuance to retain counsel. The
court continued the sanctions hearing. At the rescheduled
hearing on sanctions, the court found Turner in contempt,
Turner violated his obligation to appear or to inform the
court he would not be appearing. To date, he has not
presented any adequate excuse for failing to do so. This
dereliction of duty constitutes a willful neglect or
violation of duty and a violation of the process of the
court. It was a volitional act done by one who should
reasonably be aware that his conduct is wrongful.
[Turner's] nonappearance resulted in obstruction of the