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Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Moran

Supreme Court of Iowa

November 9, 2018

DEREK T. MORAN, Respondent.

          On review of the report of the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission.

         Grievance commission recommends the revocation of an attorney's license to practice law for violations of ethical rules.

          Tara van Brederode and Amanda K. Robinson, for complainant.

          Derek T. Moran, Urbandale, pro se.


         The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board charged attorney Derek T. Moran with violating rules of professional conduct in connection with his representation of numerous commercial truck drivers and his representation of a parent in a child custody matter. The charges included misappropriation or conversion of client funds. Moran failed to meet his burden under Iowa Court Rule 36.8(2) to produce evidence that he had a colorable future claim to unearned funds. The Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission found Moran violated multiple rules of professional conduct, including conversion of client funds and recommended revocation of his license. On our review, we determine that Moran converted client funds for his personal use, among other violations, and we revoke his license to practice law in the State of Iowa.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Until his temporary suspension in April 2016, Derek Moran practiced law in Urbandale, Iowa. We find the following facts on our de novo review of the record.

         A. CDL Consultants.

         CDL Consultants provides safety and compliance services to motor carriers and professional drivers nationwide. As part of its services, CDL Consultants hires attorneys to represent its customers who have received traffic citations that may affect their commercial driver's licenses. The goal of the legal representation is to resolve the citations in a manner avoiding loss of driving privileges and employment. CDL Consultants hired Moran to represent its customers who received traffic citations in Iowa. There was no written contract between CDL Consultants and Moran. The parties worked on a case-by-case basis. CDL Consultants referred drivers' citations to Moran and paid Moran separately for each citation. Moran agreed to enter an appearance on behalf of the cited driver and attempt to negotiate a favorable resolution. Moran was paid a flat fee between $150 and $350 per citation. If the case went to trial, Moran would be paid an additional fee.

         Approximately a year and a half into this business relationship, CDL Consultants began receiving complaints from drivers. The drivers reported that Moran failed to communicate with them, failed to appear in court or inform them of required court dates, or entered guilty pleas without their permission. Some reported that their licenses had been suspended for missing court appearances. CDL Consultants tried to contact Moran, but he stopped returning phone calls and stopped responding to emails. CDL Consultants sent a staff person from Chicago to Moran's office in Urbandale. The staff member could see Moran inside, but Moran refused to come to the door.

         Complaints against Moran were made by thirty-four professional drivers in thirty-five cases (one driver had two separate cases). Moran pocketed fees totaling $6900 from CDL Consultants to represent these clients. In four cases, Moran failed to enter an appearance or take any action. In nine cases, Moran entered an appearance and plea of not guilty, but then failed to perform further work or notify the clients of court dates, leading to their convictions when no one appeared for trial. In twenty-two cases, Moran entered guilty pleas without the client's consent.

         On November 25, 2015, CDL Consultants sent Moran a letter expressing its concern that he had not been working on the cases despite having been paid $6900. CDL Consultants demanded a refund of the legal fees. Moran did not respond to the letter and did not refund any of the fees. There is no evidence Moran deposited the fees into a trust account, and Moran did not provide any accounting of his legal services. There is, however, evidence that Moran took unearned fees.

         CDL Consultants had to hire other counsel to take over the cases and incurred approximately $11, 000-$12, 000 in additional legal expenses. Some of the drivers lost their jobs after their commercial driver's licenses were suspended in the cases Moran had ...

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