ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BD. v. CANNON
789 N.W.2d 756 (2010)
IOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, Complainant,
Peter Sean CANNON, Respondent.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
October 15, 2010.
In this disciplinary proceeding, an Iowa attorney is charged with plagiarism in connection with the filing of briefs in federal court. He is also accused of charging his client an unreasonable fee for the preparation of those briefs. The Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa found that the attorney committed plagiarism but did not charge an excessive fee. The commission nonetheless recommended a six-month suspension of the attorney's license. The attorney has filed a statement urging a more lenient sanction. Upon our de novo review, we agree with the findings of the commission, but conclude a public reprimand is warranted.
I. Factual and Procedural History.
The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board filed a complaint against Iowa attorney Peter Cannon arising out of his representation of a client in bankruptcy proceedings. In its complaint, the board charged that Cannon filed a brief and a reply brief—in support of the removal of the attorneys for the bankruptcy trustee— which were largely plagiarized from a published article. The board also alleged that a bill of $5737.50 for 25.5 hours of work for Cannon's execution of the briefs was excessive.
The underlying dispute from which this ethical complaint arises is complex. Attorney Jay Marcus brought an action, on behalf of his clients, the Cains, against Ted Burghoff in state court alleging that Burghoff had swindled money from the Cains through an investment scheme involving the acquisition of IPO stock. During the pendency of that action, the Cains deposed John Petit. Petit, believing that the focus of the deposition centered on Burghoff's conduct, was unrepresented at the time. During the deposition, however, Marcus began to aggressively question Petit about his conduct regarding the development of the scheme to acquire the IPO stock. Ultimately, Petit refused to answer the questions posed by Marcus.
Eventually, Burghoff filed for bankruptcy protection, and Marcus was appointed as special counsel to the bankruptcy trustee to pursue Petit. Attorney Mark Sherinian initially represented Petit in the bankruptcy proceeding, but he sought Cannon's help in the litigation. Sherinian and Cannon believed that Marcus had a personal and legal vendetta against Petit due, in part, to the attorney's conduct during Petit's deposition and his aggressive legal style. They also believed that Marcus's continued representation of the Cains in the state court proceeding was inappropriate. As a result, Sherinian and Cannon believed that Marcus was not "disinterested" as required by the Bankruptcy Code and sought to have him disqualified as special counsel in the bankruptcy proceedings.
Cannon filed a motion to disqualify Marcus with the bankruptcy court, along with a twenty-one-page brief. Following the hearing, Cannon submitted a further brief in support of the motion. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Kilberg denied Cannon's motion to disqualify Marcus as special counsel for the trustee.