appeal from the report of the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance
attorney appeals a report of the grievance commission
recommending we revoke her license to practice law in this
Elizabeth E. Quinlan, Des Moines, for complainant.
L. Brown of Hanson, McClintock & Riley, Des Moines, for
Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board (Board)
brought a complaint against an attorney that alleged multiple
violations of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct,
including the misappropriation of funds in her representation
of two clients. The Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission
(commission) found numerous violations of our ethical rules
and recommended a revocation of her license to practice law
in this state. After our de novo review of the record, we
agree with the recommendation of the commission and revoke
the attorney's license to practice law in the State of
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Sandra Suarez-Quilty has been licensed to practice law in the
State of Iowa since 2000. During the period of the conduct
giving rise to this disciplinary action, Suarez-Quilty was a
solo practitioner in Des Moines, Iowa, where she provided
legal services primarily in the areas of immigration law,
family law, and criminal law. Suarez-Quilty stipulated to all
facts contained in the Board's final complaint, which are
described as follows.
represented Darlena McElroy in a guardianship case involving
McElroy's elderly father, Percy McElroy (Percy). After
McElroy was enjoined from acting on Percy's behalf,
Suarez-Quilty and McElroy met with Percy on January 29, 2013,
without the knowledge or consent of his attorney, Jessica
Chandler, or his guardian ad litem, Sarah Dewein. While she
was meeting with Percy, Suarez-Quilty left Chandler a
voicemail proclaiming, "I am sitting with your client .
. . and we have some things we would like to discuss with
you." Chandler returned the call immediately to ask why
Suarez-Quilty was meeting with Percy, to which Suarez-Quilty
responded, "I represent him now."
second phone call that day, Suarez-Quilty informed Chandler
that McElroy was going to remove Percy from his location.
Dewein and a social worker immediately responded to
Percy's location to find Suarez-Quilty there with Percy.
When Dewein confronted Suarez-Quilty with a copy of the
injunction enjoining McElroy from acting as Percy's
guardian, Suarez-Quilty continued to insist that McElroy
would act as Percy's guardian. Despite these facts, at a
hearing in this case conducted on February 8, Suarez-Quilty
told the judge, "I did not visit with Mr. McElroy [on
January 29] with regard to anything as it relates to this
Unauthorized Practice of Law.
was convicted of operating while under the influence of
alcohol (OWI), second offense on February 11, 2013. Her
license to practice law in Iowa was subsequently suspended
due to disability from February 15 until June 4. On April 18,
during her suspension, Suarez-Quilty contacted attorney
Christine Branstad in the course of representing a client in
a child visitation matter. Through the exchange of numerous
emails, Suarez-Quilty negotiated visitation for her client.
About a week later, Suarez-Quilty emailed Branstad again on
behalf of her client stating, "Until official
reinstatement (any day), service will be accepted by [another
attorney]." It was at this point that Branstad learned
that Suarez-Quilty's license was suspended. When Branstad
informed Suarez-Quilty that she was acting improperly,
Suarez-Quilty disagreed and told Branstad that she was
"in compliance and acting in conformity therewith . . .
. feel free to ask . . . about anything you wish prior to
making such hefty allegations as it has been a hard enough
Trust Account Issues.
an audit that was initiated on March 27, 2013, the
auditor's report showed Suarez-Quilty had the following
deficiencies: "Failure to properly deposit client
receipts into the trust account" on several occasions;
"[f]ailure to maintain a receipt and disbursements
journal;" "[f]ailure to maintain ledger
records;" "[f]ailure to maintain accountings to
clients;" "[f]ailure to maintain copies of
bills;" "[f]ailure to maintain a checkbook
register;" "[f]ailure to maintain records of all
electronic transfers from client trust accounts;"
"[f]ailure to prepare written monthly reconciliations of
the client trust account bank statements to the check
register, monthly reconciliations of check register to client
account totals, and a monthly trial balance of open client
account balances;" "[f]ailure to deposit advance
fee and expense payments;" and "[f]ailure to
provide notification upon withdrawal of fee or expense."
Another audit report dated July 3, 2014, revealed many of the
same deficiencies with the exception of failure to maintain
accounting to clients, failure to maintain copies of client
billing statements, and failure to provide clients with
timely notifications upon her withdrawal of fees or expenses.
Suarez-Quilty also failed to provide the auditor with all
records requested between December 2013 and April 2014.
Ferazz retained Suarez-Quilty to represent him in a custody
modification matter on May 8, 2014. He gave Suarez-Quilty a
$1500 retainer, but they did not enter into a written fee
agreement. On May 30, Suarez-Quilty withdrew this $1500 from
her trust account, yet did not provide Ferazz with a
contemporaneous billing statement. She did not communicate
with Ferazz between June 18 and July 22.
unclear when the opposing party sent Suarez-Quilty the draft
of a modification agreement, but the opposing party contacted
Suarez-Quilty on July 7 asking for clarification. On July 22,
Suarez-Quilty emailed Ferazz informing him that she spent
fifteen hours on his case and she needed him to pay the
balance. Ferazz requested an itemization of his $1500 fee
payment. On July 24, in the presence of another attorney,
Ferazz telephonically severed his attorney-client
relationship with Suarez-Quilty. Suarez-Quilty subsequently
emailed him ...