State of Nebraska ex rel. Counsel for Discipline of the Nebraska Supreme Court, relator,
Kent J. Trembly, respondent.
Disciplinary Proceedings: Appeal and Error.
Because attorney discipline cases are original proceedings
before the Nebraska Supreme Court, the court reviews a
referee's recommendations de novo on the record, reaching
a conclusion independent of the referee's findings.
Disciplinary Proceedings. The basic issues
in a disciplinary proceeding against an attorney are whether
discipline should be imposed and, if so, the appropriate
discipline under the circumstances.
determine whether and to what extent discipline should be
imposed in an attorney discipline proceeding, the Nebraska
Supreme Court considers the following factors: (1) the nature
of the offense, (2) the need for deterring others, (3) the
maintenance of the reputation of the bar as a whole, (4) the
protection of the public, (5) the attitude of the respondent
generally, and (6) the respondent's present or future
fitness to continue in the practice of law.
Each attorney discipline case must be evaluated in light of
its particular facts and circumstances.
For purposes of determining the proper discipline of an
attorney, the Nebraska Supreme Court considers the
attorney's actions both underlying the events of the case
and throughout the proceeding, as well as any aggravating or
The propriety of a sanction must be considered with reference
to the sanctions imposed in prior similar cases. 7.
Disciplinary Proceedings: Rules of the Supreme
Court. A pattern of noncompliance with Nebraska
disciplinary rules and cumulative acts of attorney misconduct
are distinguishable from isolated incidents, therefore
justifying more serious sanctions.
Neb. 196] 8. Disciplinary
Proceedings: Convictions. A felony conviction is a
strongly aggravating factor in determining the sanction
ultimately imposed on an attorney.
Disciplinary Proceedings. An attorney's
cooperation in disciplinary proceedings, taking
responsibility for his or her actions, and lack of previous
discipline are each mitigating factors.
A continuing commitment to the legal profession and the
community is also a mitigating factor in an attorney
When no exceptions to the referee's findings of fact in
an attorney discipline case are filed, the Nebraska Supreme
Court may consider the referee's findings final and
Disciplinary Proceedings: Case Disapproved.
State ex rel. Counsel forDis. v. Mills, 267 Neb. 57,
671 N.W.2d 765');">671 N.W.2d 765 (2003), is disapproved to the extent it was
determined therein that a 2-year suspension was a sufficient
sanction based on the egregious conduct substantiating the
grounds for disciplinary action.
Original action. Judgment of suspension.
L. Agena, Assistant Counsel for Discipline, for relator.
Clarence E. Mock, of Johnson & Mock, P.C., L.L.O., for
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, and
Papik, JJ., and Hall, District Judge.
an attorney discipline case in which the only question before
this court is the appropriate sanction. Kent J. Trembly
admits to receiving a felony conviction for filing a false
individual income tax return in the U.S. District Court for
the District of Nebraska. The referee recommended Trembly be
suspended from the practice of law for 18 months. However,
after our de novo review of the record, we conclude a 3-year
suspension from the practice of law is the proper sanction.
was admitted to the practice of law in the State of Nebraska
on September 28, 1994. At all relevant times, he was engaged
in the practice of law in Wahoo, Nebraska.
Neb. 197] Grounds for Attorney Discipline On December 16,
2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska
accepted Trembly's plea of guilty and found him guilty of
the charge of filing a false tax return for tax year 2006,
under I.R.C. § 7206(1) (2012). Specifically, Trembly
filed a U.S. individual tax return that failed to report any
gross receipts from his business activity-involving legal,
veterinary, supplement sales, and investment brokerage
businesses-omitting gross receipts of $1, 110, 982.77. On
December 8, 2016, Trembly was sentenced to probation for 2
years, with 6 months of home restriction, and restitution in
the amount of $110, 374.58.
3, 2017, Counsel for Discipline of the Nebraska Supreme Court
filed formal charges against Trembly, alleging that he
violated his oath of office as an attorney, Neb. Rev. Stat.
§ 7-104 (Reissue 2012), and Neb. Ct. R. of Prof. Cond.
§ 3-508.4(a) through (c). Trembly admitted to these
allegations in his answer, and we sustained Counsel for
Discipline's motion for judgment on the pleadings limited
to the facts. We then appointed a referee for the taking of
evidence limited to the appropriate discipline.
an evidentiary hearing, the referee reported his findings of
fact and recommendations for the appropriate sanction. The
referee reasoned that omitting over $1 million of income from
a tax return was serious, needed to be deterred, and
reflected poorly on the reputation of the bar as a whole.
However, the referee noted that Trembly's actions did not
harm any clients and that "Trembly has accepted
responsibility for the actions that form the basis of this
proceeding, has satisfied all terms of his probation and has
cooperated with Counsel for [D]iscipline to resolve this
referee also identified certain mitigating factors that
reflect on Trembly's present and future fitness to
practice law: Trembly's cooperation with Counsel for
Discipline and [300 Neb. 198] acceptance of responsibility;
Trembly's lack of prior disciplinary issues, with Counsel
for Discipline or the professional boards in the three states
where he holds a veterinarian license; and his honorable
discharge from the Nebraska Air National Guard as a
lieutenant colonel in 2014.
report, the referee acknowledged the seriousness of a felony
conviction and that this court has generally found disbarment
to be the appropriate sanction for attorneys who have
received a felony conviction. Nevertheless, the referee
stated that such discipline was not required and that
"the nature of the conduct. . . ought to be evaluated
more thoroughly than the final classification of any criminal
referee found Trembly's conduct more egregious than in
cases where attorneys filed no income tax returns, receiving
1-year suspensions, but less egregious than in State ex
rel. Counsel for Dis. v. Mills (Mills T), where we
issued a 2-year suspension. Because the attorney in Mills
I, Stuart B. Mills, was convicted of a felony for the
conduct we had disciplined him for after our proceedings and
he received no additional suspension because of the
conviction, the referee determined Trembly's felony
conviction was essentially irrelevant to determining his
discipline. In weighing the factors for imposing discipline
and the mitigating factors, the referee determined the
appropriate sanction for Trembly fell between cases involving
1-year and 2-year suspensions. Accordingly, the referee
recommended Trembly be suspended from the practice of law for
only question before this court is the appropriate
attorney discipline cases are original proceedings before
this court, we review a referee's recommendations [300
Neb. 199] de novo on the record, reaching a conclusion
independent of the referee's findings.
basic issues in a disciplinary proceeding against an attorney
are whether discipline should be imposed and. if so, the
appropriate discipline under the circumstances. To determine
whether and to what extent discipline should be imposed in an
attorney discipline proceeding, we consider the following
factors: (1) the nature of the offense, (2) the need for
deterring others, (3) the maintenance of the reputation of
the bar as a whole, (4) the protection of the public, (5) the
attitude of the respondent generally, and (6) the
respondent's present or future fitness to continue in the
practice of law. Each attorney discipline case must be
evaluated in light of its particular facts and
of a disciplinary rule concerning the practice of law is a
ground for discipline. Further, criminal offenses committed by an
attorney and involving violence, dishonesty, breach of trust,
or serious interference with the administration of justice
require imposition of attorney discipline.
admitted being convicted of a felony for filing a false
individual income tax return and violating the Nebraska Rules
of Professional Conduct and his oath of office as an
attorney, § 7-104, in his answer to the formal charges.
Thus, we granted Counsel for Discipline's motion for
judgment on the pleadings as to the facts substantiating the
grounds for [300 Neb. 200] disciplinary action. We must now
determine the appropriate sanction.
Neb. Ct. R. § 3-304, this court may impose one or more
of the following disciplinary sanctions: "(1) Disbarment
by the Court; or (2) Suspension by the Court; or (3)
Probation by the Court in lieu of or subsequent to
suspension, on such terms as the Court may designate; or (4)