Georgia lawyer who falsely witnessed a quitclaim deed and provided false responses to disciplinary complaint disbarred by the Georgia Supreme Court

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Georgia Supreme Court opinion which disbarred a lawyer who, inter alia, provided a false response to a disciplinary complaint.  The opinion is In the Matter of Donald O. Nelson, Ga. Supreme Court Case No. S13Y1024 (September 9, 2013).  The opinion is attached and online here:

According to the opinion, the lawyer (who was admitted to practice in 1969) “represented the lender in a refinancing of property owned by a married couple.At the closing, the Husband signed the security deed and believed he was a joint borrower with his Wife. However, in October 2005, a quitclaim deed transferring Husband’s interest in the property to Wife was prepared in Nelson’s office. Someone other than Husband executed the quitclaim deed. Nelson witnessed, and his legal assistant notarized, Husband’s signature. The quitclaim deed was filed in February 2006, and in March 2006, Wife obtained a second mortgage on the property unbeknownst to Husband. The husband first learned of the forged quitclaim deed in mid-2006.”

“In response to inquiries by the State Bar, Nelson made intentional misrepresentations of fact, writing in January 2008 that after the refinancing closing, it was discovered that Husband had inadvertently failed to sign the quitclaim deed, but that upon notification by Nelson’s office, Husband came to the office and executed the quitclaim deed. In another written response provided in March 2008, Nelson stated his ‘belief that Husband signed the Quit Claim Deed on the day following the closing.’ In January 2009 Nelson again wrote to the State Bar reiterating that his prior written responses were true and correct, adding that he had ‘very deliberately and methodically explained to [Husband] that the loan had been approved in his wife’s name only’ and that it would be necessary for him to execute a quitclaim deed to Wife so the loan could be closed in her name only. Nelson admitted at the evidentiary hearing that he made the written statements in January 2008 and January 2009 without having any specific recollection of the events.”

The lawyer had two prior disciplinary offenses including a “lengthy suspension” following a 1995 guilty plea to one count of money laundering along with a reprimand in 1994. The special master found in aggravation that the lawyer had obstructed the disciplinary proceeding in bad faith, submitted false and misleading statements during the disciplinary proceeding, refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct, and had substantial experience in the practice of law. The special master also noted that under Georgia Bar Rule 4-103, a third or subsequent disciplinary infraction constitutes grounds for disbarment.   The opinion approved the special master’s recommendation of disbarment.

Bottom line:  This lawyer would most likely have been in serious trouble even if he had been truthful in responding to the allegations in the Bar complaint; however, the false responses and statements pretty much cinched the deal.  The lawyer admitted that he made the written statements “without having any specific recollection of events.”  As I have said many times and in many forums, as bad as it is to have to respond to a Bar complaint, it is even worse for the lawyer to either lie or rely solely on memory in making the response.  As was also said many years ago, “the cover up is worse than the crime”.

Be careful out there!

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

About jcorsmeier

Joseph A. Corsmeier is an “AV” rated attorney practicing in Clearwater, Florida. He concentrates his practice primarily in the areas of defense of attorney disciplinary matters before The Florida Bar, attorney admission matters before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and professional license and disciplinary matters before the Boards of the State of Florida. He provides expert analysis and opinion on conflict of interest and other attorney disqualification and legal malpractice issues and he testified as an expert in the Florida courts. He served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Sixth Judicial Circuit from 1986 to 1990 where he prosecuted felonies exclusively from June 1987, and as Bar Counsel for The Florida Bar’s Department of Lawyer Regulation from 1990 to 1998. He also practices in the areas of estate planning and Medicaid qualification, workers’ compensation, and labor law. Mr. Corsmeier is the author of numerous articles for various bar publications, has spoken at numerous local and statewide seminars on various topics, including ethics and professionalism, and was an instructor of legal ethics for paralegals at Rollins College until the Tampa campus closed. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State University and his J.D. from Mercer University. He is admitted to practice in all Florida Courts, the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the Middle District of Florida. He is a member of The Florida Bar, American Bar Association, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Bar Associations.
This entry was posted in Attorney discipline, Attorney ethics, corsmeier, deceit, dishonesty, Florida Lawyer Professionalsim, fraud, joe corsmeier, joseph corsmeier, Lawyer disbarment, Lawyer Ethics, Lawyer false statements, Lawyer misrepresentation, Lawyer sanctions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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