State of Nebraska ex rel. Counsel for Discipline of the Nebraska Supreme Court, relator.
Kent E. Person, respondent.
Disciplinary Proceedings. Attorney
discipline cases are original proceedings before the Nebraska
Supreme Court, and the court reviews a referee's
recommendations de novo on the record, reaching a conclusion
independent of the referee's findings.
__.__ The basic issues in a disciplinary proceeding against
an attorney are whether the Nebraska Supreme Court should
impose discipline and, if so, the appropriate discipline
under the circumstances.
3. __ .
The goal in disciplining attorneys in attorney discipline
proceedings is not as much punishment as it is a
determination of whether it is in the public interest to
allow an attorney to keep practicing law.
4. __ .
The determination of an appropriate penalty to be imposed on
an attorney in a disciplinary proceeding requires
consideration of any aggravating or mitigating factors.
The Nebraska Supreme Court considers the following factors in
determining whether and to what extent discipline should be
imposed: (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 offender generally, and (6) the
offender's present and future fitness to continue in the
practice of law.
action. Judgment of suspension.
W. Steele, Assistant Counsel for Discipline, for relator.
E. Person, pro se.
Neb. 662] Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy,
Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.
Counsel for Discipline of the Nebraska Supreme Court filed
formal charges against Kent E. Person, alleging ethical
violations. At the hearing before the referee, Person, a
Nebraska licensed attorney, admitted to violating his oath of
office as an attorney, as well as Neb. Ct. R. of Prof. Cond.
§§ 3-501.1 (competence), 3-501.3 (diligence),
3-501.4 (communications), 3-503.3 (candor toward tribunal),
and 3-508.4 (misconduct). We order an indefinite suspension
from the practice of law for a minimum of 2 years, followed
by a 2-year period of probation.
was admitted to the practice of law in the State of Nebraska
on June 24, 1968. Person began practicing as an attorney in
1970, working with his father in Holdrege, Nebraska.
was retained by complainant to administer the estate of
complainant's mother following her passing on November
16, 2007. The following timeline is placed against the
backdrop of repeated, and rarely answered, communications by
complainant over the 8 years that Person was purporting to
administer the estate of complainant's mother.
January 22, 2008, Person opened the estate informally in
Phelps County Court, at which time, complainant was appointed
as the estate's personal representative. After no further
action had taken place with regard to the estate, on June 3,
the clerk magistrate sent Person a notification reminding him
that the estate inventory had been due on April 22. Person
filed the initial inventory on December 1, over 7 months
after the statutorily mandated filing date.
connection with meeting federal tax reporting requirements,
Person contacted complainant on November 25, 2008, [301 Neb.
663] to request that he come to Person's office to sign
the "Federal Estate Tax Return, Form 706." After
complainant signed the form, Person told complainant that he,
Person, would file the form. Person ultimately failed to do
so. Person withheld from complainant that the form should
have been filed within 9 months of complainant's
mother's death, a deadline that had passed over 3 months
earlier. Person further withheld information regarding
penalties and interest that would result from the missed
result of the case's being open in excess of 18 months,
the clerk magistrate sent a notification to Person requesting
that a '"status letter'" be filed with the
court by August 15, 2009. After Person failed to file the
ordered status letter, the clerk magistrate issued a show
cause order to Person, setting the matter for hearing on
October 19. The result of the hearing is not clear from the
record. On April 6, 2010, the clerk magistrate sent another
communication to Person, seeking a report on the status of
the estate. Receiving no reply or status letter, the clerk