The Iowa Supreme Court has suspended the licenses of two attorneys from Keota who were found to be overcharging a client. Attorney Donald Laing was appointed the conservator for Vietnam veteran John Klein in May of 1974. Klein had a history of paranoid schizophrenia, depression and substance abuse.
He needed help after inheriting several acres of land and other assets from family members. Laing was later joined by his law partner, Scott Railsback, in managing Klein’s affairs. The two attorneys also ended up performing some of the duties of a guardian for Klein — such as finding him a place to live when he had trouble due to his mental health issues, getting his car fixed and taking him to the doctor.
The two men submitted bills each year for their services, and were paid until Klein challenged the bills in 2008. The district court found that Laing and Railsback had steadily increased the hourly rate they charged Klein, and the rate they charged for many services was well over what Klein would have paid to someone else.
The district court said the attorney’s owed Klein just over $175,000 in overcharges. The Supreme Court’s Grievance Commission recommended that Laing and Railsback’s licenses be suspended for three-years.
The justices however, lowered that suspension to 18 months, saying the two had sincerely attempted to make Klein’s life better in trying circumstances when no relatives stepped forward to help. But they said they two clearly went wrong in the application of fees to someone who was vulnerable and kept uniformed about what they were charging.