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OFFICE DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL v. SUBER W. LEWIS (03/13/81)

decided: March 13, 1981.

OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL, PETITIONER,
v.
SUBER W. LEWIS, RESPONDENT



No. 256 DISCIPLINARY DOCKET No. 1, Disciplinary Board File No. 18 DB 79

COUNSEL

John W. Herron, Philadelphia, for petitioner.

Abraham J. Brem, Philadelphia, for respondent.

Flaherty, Justice. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Flaherty

[ 493 Pa. Page 521]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On July 18, 1979, the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel charged Suber W. Lewis (respondent) with serious acts of misconduct involving the commingling and conversion of client funds, misrepresentation, and the neglect and intentional failure properly to represent his client. After hearing, the hearing committee found that respondent had violated

[ 493 Pa. Page 522]

DR 1-102(A)(3)(4)(6); 6-101(A)(3); 7-101(A)(3); 9-102(A) and 9-102(B)(3)(4)*fn1 and recommended a private reprimand to the Disciplinary Board. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed exceptions to the recommendation of the hearing committee asserting that a private reprimand was too lenient and reflected neither the gravity of Respondent's misconduct, his past history of prior informal admonitions, nor Respondent's failure (at that time) to make restitution.

[ 493 Pa. Page 523]

On May 30, 1980, a three member panel of the Disciplinary Board heard oral argument and on August 26, 1980 the Board filed its Report and Recommendations to this Court recommending that respondent be suspended for two months. On September 22, 1980 we rejected that recommendation and entered an Order suspending respondent forthwith and issued a Rule that respondent show cause why he should not be disbarred. After a careful review of the entire record in this case, we disbar respondent from the practice of law in the courts of this Commonwealth.

The facts in this case are as follows. Respondent represented Ms. Vernell London in regard to personal injuries she suffered in an automobile accident. The case was to be handled on a contingent fee basis wherein respondent would receive 50% of the balance after medical expenses, expenses of suit, investigation, and witness fees were paid. However, there was no agreement between respondent and Ms. London as to the fee to be charged for processing her no-fault claim. Respondent collected the sum of $3,954.66 from Ms. London's insurance carrier in payment of no-fault benefits under her policy. Approximately $850.00 of this amount represented payment for medical fees. Respondent then caused Ms. London to endorse and return the insurance check to him, asserting that he would pay the outstanding medical bills and return to Ms. London the balance.

On December 21, 1977, respondent deposited the insurance check in his personal account and put the money to his personal use. In January and February of 1978, Ms. London made several oral requests for return of her money. In telephone conversations, respondent repeatedly promised payment and claimed that his failure to pay had been an oversight. On July 7, 1978, approximately six months after depositing ...


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