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Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Johnson

Supreme Court of Iowa

April 19, 2019

IOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, Complainant,
v.
ANTHONY R. JOHNSON, Respondent.

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

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

          Tara van Brederode and Wendell J. Harms, Des Moines, for complainants.

          Anthony R. Johnson, Ankeny, for pro se respondent.

          CADY, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         This case is before us on review from a report and recommendation of a division of the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission concerning attorney Anthony R. Johnson. The report found Johnson committed ethical violations and recommended revocation of his license to practice law. We find Johnson violated the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct by engaging in criminal conduct involving fraud. We revoke his license to practice law in Iowa.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Anthony R. Johnson is an Iowa lawyer in Ankeny. He was employed as an accountant for Saxton Motors, LC. In August 2016, Johnson entered an Alford plea in the Iowa District Court for Polk County to the felony offense of fraudulent practice in the first degree.[1]The charge was supported by evidence that Johnson embezzled substantial sums of money from his employer by making false entries in the records of the business for over a year. Essentially, Johnson funneled income from the business into two secret, unauthorized business accounts he established to receive the funds.

         In October 2016, the district court sentenced Johnson to a suspended ten-year term of incarceration and placed him on probation. The sentence also imposed a fine and ordered him to pay restitution.

         Johnson engaged in multiple instances of unethical conduct in the past. His license was suspended in 2009 for abandoning his legal practice in Ankeny. His license was never reinstated, and he has not engaged in the practice of law since that time.

         II. Board Complaint.

         Based on the criminal conviction, the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board filed a complaint against Johnson on May 25, 2018. It alleged that his conduct resulting in the criminal conviction violated Iowa Rule of Professional Conduct 32:8.4(b) (committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer) and rule 32:8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

         Johnson did not respond to the complaint after service of notice. See Iowa Ct. R. 36.7 (providing allegations of complaint are deemed admitted when respondent fails to timely answer the complaint). He also did not appear at the hearing on the complaint.

         The commission found Johnson violated rule 32:8.4(b) by committing the crime of fraudulent practice in the first degree. It also found the crime reflected adversely on Johnson's fitness to practice law, as well as the honesty and trustworthiness required of lawyers. It further found Johnson violated rule 32:8.4(c) by knowingly and intentionally defrauding his employer and that the dishonest conduct also reflected ...


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