SC: March 2017 Attorney Discipline Cases

Michael Thornsbury; James E. Isenberg; Thomas Steven Poteat; Brian Nathan Hopper; Franklin S. Yudkin; Timothy Michael Longmeyer

A. Kentucky Bar Association v. Michael Thornsbury 

2016-SC-000607-KB March 23, 2017 7

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Thornsbury was charged in the Southern District of West Virginia with a felony offense for conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights of another. The indictments stated that Thornsbury had engaged in criminal conspiracies in his role as West Virginia Circuit Judge to frame his secretary’s husband for crimes he did not commit following Thornsbury’s affair with his secretary. Thornsbury pled guilty and received a sentence of 50 months’ incarceration in federal prison. He also tendered his “Affidavit for Consent to Disbarment” in conjunction with his plea agreement.

The West Virginia Disciplinary Counsel concluded that Thornsbury violated numerous West Virginia judicial canons and the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ordered that his license to practice law be annulled by voluntary consent. The Kentucky Bar Association filed a petition for reciprocal discipline under SCR 3.435. The Supreme Court of Kentucky ordered Thornsbury to show cause why he should not be permanently disbarred but he failed to comply. Accordingly, the Supreme Court permanently disbarred Thornsbury consistent with the order of identical discipline from West Virginia.

B. Kentucky Bar Association v. James E. Isenberg 

2016-SC-000663-KB March 23, 2017 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. In 2011, Isenberg was suspended from the practice of law for five years. Despite his suspension, Isenberg continued to actively practice law. The Inquiry Commission eventually filed a charge against Isenberg but he failed to answer. The charge was submitted as a default case and the Board of Governors unanimously recommended that Isenberg be permanently disbarred from the practice of law. Upon reviewing the record, the Supreme Court agreed and permanently disbarred Isenberg from the practice of law in the Commonwealth.

C. Kentucky Bar Association v. Thomas Steven Poteat 

2016-SC-000664-KB March 23, 2017 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting. Minton, C.J.; Cunningham, Hughes, Keller, Venters, and Wright, JJ., concur. VanMeter, J., concurs in part and dissents in part by separate opinion. Poteat, who had been suspended for failure to comply with CLE requirements, did not advise clients involved in a real estate dispute of his suspension, and he continued to represent them. As part of that representation, Poteat negotiated a settlement, part of which he paid out of his own funds. In exchange for that payment, Poteat attempted to convince the clients to sign a waiver of any potential legal malpractice claims they might have against him. Poteat did not advise the clients to seek legal representation regarding the proposed waive. The KBA charged Poteat with six violations and the Board voted to find him guilty of five of those violations, including failure to advise the clients of his suspension, practicing law while suspended, engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, and failing to respond to requests for information from the KBA. The majority of the Board members voted to recommend a one-year suspension to run consecutively with Poteat’s existing CLE suspension. The Court adopted the Board’s recommendation.

D. Kentucky Bar Association v. Brian Nathan Hopper 

2016-SC-000669-KB March 23, 2017 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting. Minton, C.J.; Hughes, Keller, VanMeter, Venters, and Wright, JJ, concur. Cunningham, J., concurs in result only. The Board of Governors found Hopper guilty of violating SCR 3.130-1.3, -1.4(a)(4), -1.15(b), -1.16(d), and -8.1(b) and recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for 181 days. Hopper did not respond to the initial complaint or the charge that was filed by the Inquiry Commission.

Neither Hopper nor Bar Counsel filed a notice of appeal. Accordingly, under SCR 3.370(9), the Supreme Court adopted the recommendation of the Board of Governors, finding Hopper guilty of all six charged counts and suspending him from the practice of law for 181 days.

E. Kentucky Bar Association v. Franklin S. Yudkin 

2017-SC-000022-KB March 23, 2017 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Yudkin from the practice of law for a period not less than 90 days, without automatic reinstatement. As a consequence, the KBA moved for the Supreme Court of Kentucky to order Yudkin to show cause why he should not be subject to reciprocal discipline. Yudkin responded by requesting that reciprocal discipline not be imposed. But the Court concluded that Yudkin failed to provide a legally sufficient reason why the Court should not impose reciprocal discipline, finding that his conduct, which consisted of affirmatively misrepresenting facts to the trial court and the appellate court, did not “warrant substantially different discipline” in Kentucky under SCR 3.434(4)(b). Accordingly, the Court ordered Yudkin suspended from the practice of law in the Commonwealth for a period not less than 90 days, beginning December 8, 2016.

F. Timothy Michael Longmeyer v. Kentucky Bar Association 

2017-SC-000025-KB March 23, 2017 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Longmeyer pled guilty to engaging in an unlawful “kickback” scheme involving the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan and was sentenced to 70 months’ imprisonment. He moved the Court for leave to resign under terms of permanent disbarment, a motion the Court granted.