Attorneys Face Disciplinary Action For How They Handled Clients’ Funds

By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

A Nebraska attorney was disbarred last week after being accused of stealing from clients, while an Iowa attorney had their license revoked after depositing client funds into a personal account without a legitimate claim.

The Nebraska Supreme Court entered a judgement of disbarment for a Lincoln attorney who is facing criminal charges related to stealing from clients.

Craig A. Hoffman voluntarily surrendered his law license on Sept. 10 after having it temporarily suspended on May 17, 2018. 

Hoffman faces five Class IIA felony charges of theft by deception of at least $5,000 in Lancaster County Court, according to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Hoffman was being investigated for various complaints implicating a client trust account before surrendering his license. He chose not to contest the disciplinary action made against him.

The Lincoln Journal Star reported that Hoffman pleaded not guilty of the criminal counts.

The Iowa Supreme Court ordered a license revocation for a Des Moines attorney who deposited $7,500 advanced by a client into a personal account.

Tina Muhammad contested the disciplinary action, claiming the money was “already earned” for services in a separate action.

She said the contract with the client was pulled off the internet and was “all wrong for this case,” and claims the contract alludes that the $7,500 was for expenses “but that is incorrect,” according to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Muhammad further said that she thought she placed the funds in a client trust account, but the account was improperly set up by her bank. She also asserted that she failed to track her time and did not provide the client and that “my paperwork … was lousy.” 

Nevertheless, Muhammad said the client worked with her and her paralegal daily and that the client owed her another $7,500, in addition to the original payment.

A finding by the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission concluded that Muhammad did not have a colorable claim to the money, which the commission said was provided for expenses.

Muhammad asked for leniency, stating her errors were due to a lack of experience. The Supreme Court found that the check was deposited into a personal account was an intentional act, not a mere mistake, and even if Muhammad did not realize the ethical implications, it still was a rule violation.

The court exceeded the commission’s disciplinary recommendation, which was to suspend Muhammad’s license for one year while requiring reimbursement of the funds, mentoring and additional continuing legal education. The court ordered Muhammad’s license revoked, allowing her to seek to reapply in five years.

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