Following an unsuccessful attempt to resolve certain complaints that had been filed with it concerning Raymond H. Kintz (respondent), the Disciplinary Board of the State Bar (board) conducted an investigation and filed a formal accusation with the Court pursuant to SDCL 16-19-67. The accusation charged that respondent had violated SDCL 16-19-33(5),
Following a hearing on June 4, 1981, at which respondent appeared pro se and testified, the referee on July 6, 1981, filed his findings and recommendations with this Court.
Based upon respondent's admissions under oath in open court and the evidence submitted by the board, the referee found by a clear preponderance of the evidence that the allegations set forth in the board's formal accusation were true.
The referee found that sometime in 1972 one Charles Red Bird, who then was operating a ranch west of Mobridge, filed a complaint in the tribal court of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe with respect to some eighty cows and two bulls that had been taken from him by tribal employees. Upon receiving no relief from the tribal court, Mr. Red Bird took certain papers concerning these cattle to respondent with the request that respondent take action against the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to regain the cattle. Respondent did some field work, made an investigation, and started gathering facts about the case. Respondent took no further action, whereupon Mr. Red Bird made some six separate attempts to recover the papers that he had delivered to respondent. Respondent was unable to find the papers, however, and had not yet returned them at the time of the hearing. Respondent has received nothing from Mr. Red Bird in the way of a retainer or a fee for services performed. Respondent failed to respond to Mr. Red Bird's complaint when requested to do so by the board.
On August 11, 1978, the law firm of Shapiro Green & Beinhaker of Westmount, Quebec, Canada, sent to respondent on behalf of one of their Canadian clients a collection in the amount of $319.11 against a business firm in Deadwood, South Dakota. By letter dated August 21, 1978, respondent acknowledged receipt of the referral and advised Mr. Irving Shapiro that he had had a telephone conversation with a representative of the debtor concerning the matter. On September 27, 1978, respondent again wrote to Mr. Shapiro, advising him that he had not received any response to his request for payment from the debtor and enclosing
On August 25, 1980, the board sent to respondent a notice requiring respondent's attendance at a meeting of the board to be held on September 26, 1980, for the purpose of considering the complaints filed by Mr. Red Bird and Mr. Shapiro. Respondent failed to appear at the hearing or to in any other way respond to the notice.
In addition to the foregoing findings, the referee found that on April 28, 1976, respondent had received a private reprimand from the board based upon respondent's having written some insufficient funds checks and having commingled his trust and office accounts.
Based upon the foregoing findings, the referee submitted the following recommendation:
In reaching this recommendation, the referee commented that respondent had completely ignored the disciplinary procedures carried out by the board pursuant to the rules of disciplinary procedure set forth in SDCL ch. 16-19.
Our review of the record leaves us with no doubt but that the referee's findings are fully supported by the evidence submitted, and accordingly we accept and adopt them in full.
We turn, then, to the matter of the appropriate discipline to be imposed.
Respondent was admitted as a member of the bar on July 29, 1965, and has been engaged in the practice of law since that date. His office is presently located in Dupree. In addition to his law practice, respondent operates abstract companies in Ziebach and Dewey Counties. He and his sons operate theaters in Dupree, Timber Lake, and Eagle Butte. In addition to these business interests, respondent also maintains a license from the Division of Motor Vehicles to sell used cars. The picture that emerges from respondent's candid testimony before the referee is that of an individual who has been engaged in many business and civic activities and who apparently has had a long-standing inability to give prompt attention to matters entrusted
Respondent acknowledged that he had acted in an irrational manner in failing to respond to the numerous inquiries made with respect to the matters under investigation.
As we said in In re Kunkle, 88 S.D. 269, 295, 218 N.W.2d 521, 536 (1974):
We have not here a case of criminality in the sense of dishonesty or a deliberate defalcation. For whatever reason that remains hidden in his psyche, respondent could not bring himself to perform his professional obligations to his clients in a timely manner. Nonetheless, the clients suffered as much as though respondent had acted out of evil motive. Accordingly, we must take such action as is necessary to protect the public from future neglect by respondent.
We conclude that a one-year period of suspension is warranted by the record before us. In reaching this decision, we have taken into account respondent's failure to respond to the inquiries from his clients and from the board. We believe that what was recently said by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin is applicable here:
In re Kennedy, 104 Wis.2d 1, 309 N.W.2d 843, 844 (1981). This Court said as much in In re Rude, supra, with respect to the consequences visited upon those attorneys who fail to respond promptly to inquiries from the board charged with the responsibility of investigating complaints of unprofessional conduct. Moreover, the duty to respond promptly and appropriately is clearly imposed upon every attorney under the provisions of SDCL 16-19-54.
Accordingly, an order will be entered suspending respondent from the practice of law for a period of one year. Respondent may file a petition for reinstatement with the board pursuant to SDCL 16-19-84 at the conclusion of six months of the period
An appropriate order will be entered forthwith.
The following shall similarly constitute misconduct and shall be grounds for discipline:
It shall be the duty of every attorney to promptly and appropriately respond to any complaint or letter forwarded to him by any member of the disciplinary board. In the event he shall fail to do so, he may be subject to private reprimand by the disciplinary board, or, after hearing upon order to show cause, disciplined by the Supreme Court.