Zachary A. Kinneman (WSBA No. 19443, admitted 1990), of Lakewood, has been disbarred by order of the Supreme Court effective September 1, 2000, approving a stipulation. The discipline is based on his practicing while suspended, abandoning his practice without notice to his clients, and removing client money from his trust account.
Suspension: In 1998, Mr. Kinneman failed to file the required compliance report demonstrating compliance with the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements for 1995 through 1997. On February 1, 1999, The Supreme Court suspended Mr. Kinneman’s license to practice law in Washington for failure to comply with the CLE requirements.
On February 17, 1999, by certified mail, disciplinary counsel notified Mr. Kinneman of his duties upon suspension including the requirement that he file an affidavit of compliance within 25 days of the suspension. Mr. Kinneman does not recall receiving this notice. As of the date of the stipulation, Mr. Kinneman had not completed the required CLE credits or filed the affidavit of compliance regarding his suspension.
At the time of his suspension, Mr. Kinneman was counsel of record for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit. Mr. Kinneman did not notify his clients, opposing counsel, or the court that his license had been suspended and that he could no longer represent them. On April 14, 1999, Mr. Kinneman signed a stipulation in the case allowing the defendants to amend their answer.
Abandonment of Practice: In early 1999, Mr. Kinneman closed his law office without providing notice to his clients, opposing counsel or courts. He allowed his phone line to be disconnected with no forwarding information, and did not provide a forwarding address to clients or the Bar Association. At this time, Mr. Kinneman represented several clients who were affected by his actions.
Matter 1: In September 1996, Mr. Kinneman agreed to represent clients in a dispute with the personal representative (PR) of their aunt’s estate. The clients believed that the PR had sold a parcel of real property at below-market value. Mr. Kinneman assisted the clients in removing the PR and obtaining a $20,000 distribution of estate assets.
On September 30, 1998, Mr. Kinneman told the clients that the case was set for trial on February 15, 1999, and that he believed they could recover the entire value of the property. The clients were not able to contact Mr. Kinneman after this date.
Matter 2: In April 1998, Mr. Kinneman agreed to represent two condominium residents in a dispute with the management company. The clients believed that the management company employees had made defamatory statements about them. The clients paid a $1,000 retainer, which Mr. Kinneman agreed would cover commencing a lawsuit. Mr. Kinneman drafted a declaration based on the clients’ letters, but took no further action. The clients were not able to contact Mr. Kinneman.
Matter 3: In September 1997, Mr. Kinneman agreed to represent a client who was one of several defendants in a real property case. The plaintiff’s case had settled, but there was a cross-claim pending against Mr. Kinneman’s client
On June 12, 1998, the court entered a judgment against the client on the cross-claim. Mr. Kinneman agreed to appeal the judgment. A month later, the client had not heard from Mr. Kinneman and was unable to contact him. The client’s lawyer in another matter did contact Mr. Kinneman, and he told her that he had filed the appeal and would send copies of the documents. Mr. Kinneman did not file the appeal and the time period for filing expired. The judgment creditor aggressively pursued collecting the judgment, and the client was forced to file a petition for relief in bankruptcy.
Matter 4: In August 1997, Mr. Kinneman agreed to represent a residential construction company in a suit to enforce a claim of lien against a property owner. The construction company had performed remodeling work for the homeowner and had not been paid. In August 1997, Mr. Kinneman filed the lien, and his client notified him that he had misspelled the lien holder’s name. Mr. Kinneman stated that he had refiled the lien under the correct name and had served the lien by certified mail. On October 8, 1997, the last day to file the lien, the client contacted Mr. Kinneman to verify that the lien had been properly filed. Mr. Kinneman did not respond to the client’s inquiry. In November 1997, the client retained new counsel. Because Mr. Kinneman could not establish that the homeowners had received the lien, the client agreed to settle his claim for less than the value of the original lien.
Matter 5: In June 1997, Mr. Kinneman agreed to act as closing and escrow agent in a mortgage refinance transaction. Mr. Kinneman properly disbursed the loan fee and proceeds, but failed to pay off three prior mortgage lenders or obtain reconveyances of the prior deeds of trust. Mr. Kinneman did not account for approximately $125,000 of the funds. He used approximately $30,000 of these funds to pay his personal debts. It appears that, contrary to the escrow instructions, Mr. Kinneman disbursed the remaining funds to an unrelated third party.
Believing that the underlying mortgage had been paid off, the property owner stopped paying the monthly payments on the original loans. The prior mortgage lenders commenced trustee’s foreclosure proceedings on the properties involved. The property owner lost one property in nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings and stopped the remaining proceedings by filing for bankruptcy relief.
Matter 6: Mr. Kinneman failed to cooperate with the Bar Association’s investigation of these matters. He did not respond to written requests for information pursuant to RLD 2.8 in several matters. He also failed to comply with a subpoena duces tecum issued by disciplinary counsel.
Mr. Kinneman’s conduct violated RPCs 8.4(c), prohibiting lawyers from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud or misrepresentation; 1.15(a)(1), requiring lawyers to withdraw from matters if the representation will result in a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPCs); 5.5(a), prohibiting lawyers from practicing in jurisdictions where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction; 8.4(d), prohibiting lawyers from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; 1.3, requiring lawyers to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing clients; 1.4, requiring lawyers to keep clients reasonably informed of the status of their matters and to comply with reasonable requests for information; 1.5, requiring lawyers to charge reasonable fees for representation; 1.15(d), requiring lawyers to take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests when withdrawing from representation; 1.14, requiring lawyers to preserve the identity of client funds or property in the lawyer’s possession; RLDs 8.1(a), requiring suspended lawyers to notify their clients and others of their suspension; 8.2, requiring suspended lawyers to discontinue practicing; and 8.3, requiring suspended lawyers to file an affidavit indicating compliance with the duties upon suspension within 25 days of the suspension.
Douglas Ende represented the Bar Association. Mr. Kinneman represented himself.