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Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Humphrey

Supreme Court of Iowa

January 25, 2019

IOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, Appellee,
v.
BRYAN JOHN HUMPHREY, Appellant.

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

         Grievance commission recommends suspension of an attorney's license for violations of ethical rules.

          Tara van Brederode and Andrew J. Boettger, Des Moines, for complainant.

          Bryan John Humphrey, Fort Madison, pro se.

          MANSFIELD, JUSTICE.

         An attorney failed to prosecute an appeal for one client, never communicated with a second client in a criminal matter, and failed to address his loss of a third client's abstract of title. The attorney also dragged his feet in responding to the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board (the Board) and, in one instance, misrepresented to the Board what he had done. In addition, the attorney has a significant history of discipline for similar misconduct. See Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Humphrey, 812 N.W.2d 659 (Iowa 2012); Iowa Supreme Ct. Bd. of Prof'l Ethics & Conduct v. Humphrey, 551 N.W.2d 306 (Iowa 1996); Comm. on Prof'l Ethics & Conduct v. Humphrey, 529 N.W.2d 255 (Iowa 1995).

         The attorney and the Board reached a stipulation as to facts and ethical rule violations, which included a recommended sixty-day suspension of the attorney's license. The Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission found this sanction to be too lenient and recommended an indefinite suspension of at least eighteen months. We likewise find the stipulated sanction to be too lenient. We impose an indefinite suspension with no possibility of reinstatement for one year.

         I. Facts and Procedural History.

         Bryan Humphrey is a solo practitioner in Fort Madison who was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1981. This disciplinary proceeding relates to Humphrey's representation of three different clients.

         A. The A.M. Matter.

         In 2015 and 2016, Humphrey represented A.M., the mother, in a private termination of parental rights proceeding. After filing a notice of appeal on A.M.'s behalf, Humphrey did nothing to advance the appeal. Humphrey later explained that his client had indicated she no longer wished to pursue the appeal. However, as Humphrey put it, "I did not make a responsive filing with the Court to dismiss the appeal, but rather allowed the dismissal to occur by order of the Court; obviously not a prudent decision on my part."

         Thus, Humphrey ignored a notice of default from the clerk of the appellate courts, failed to pay an assessed penalty of $150, and simply allowed the appeal to be dismissed pursuant to Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.1202.

         B. The Gerety Matter.

         In 2017, Daniel Francis Gerety was charged with operating while intoxicated, first offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2. He retained Humphrey to represent him and paid him an $800 retainer. Humphrey entered an appearance on Gerety's behalf on March 22, 2017.

         When Gerety did not appear for his pretrial conference on July 11, the district court rescheduled the pretrial conference for August 22 and the trial for September 13. On August 22, Humphrey informed the court that Gerety wanted to submit a written guilty plea. On September 11, Humphrey moved to continue the trial on the ground that Gerety lived in California and needed more time to file the written guilty plea. The court granted a continuance, and Gerety ultimately signed the written guilty plea on September 19, which Humphrey filed on September 25.

         Meanwhile, Gerety had mailed a complaint to the Board with a September 11 postmark, complaining that he had "never heard from" Humphrey after hiring him and paying an $800 retainer. As Gerety stated, "I would call & or text . . . at least 50 times over the next 5 mos. For an update or progress report & wouldn't ...


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