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Death-penalty defendant sues former attorney for malpractice

New Jersey residents may be interested in a legal malpractice lawsuit that was recently filed in Boyle Circuit Court in Kentucky. The attorney who is being sued took over a death-penalty case for which her late husband had served as lead counsel before he was killed.

Sources report that the female attorney later withdrew from the case, which is still ongoing. In her motion to withdraw, she reportedly said she couldn't handle death-penalty work due to her lack of experience with defending against such serious allegations, other felonies she was handling and her emotional state of mind. Her husband had been killed outside of his office by a mentally ill person in 2014.

The plaintiff reportedly asked for an accounting of the funds remaining in the trust account. He had reportedly paid $87,000 towards a retainer fee charged by the woman's late husband of $150,000. According to the complaint, the female attorney never provided the accounting and did not return any of the money. The plaintiff alleges that the woman responded to his request by stating that the funds were not available because she had to eat. The man is seeking the return of his retainer funds, his attorney fees, punitive damages and the costs associated with the litigation.

Attorneys are required to keep clients' funds in trust accounts that are separate from the attorneys' own money and from the operating accounts for their firms. When an attorney spends a client's money without first performing enough work to earn it, he or she may be found to be liable for legal malpractice for self-dealing. People who believe that their lawyers have committed malpractice may want to speak with an attorney who handles these types of matters.

Source: ABA Journal, "Attorney who took over husband's death-penalty case after he was killed is sued for malpractice," Martha Neil, June 8, 2016.

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