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Court orders probation for family-law attorneys

Jessica Shumaker//November 6, 2019//

Court orders probation for family-law attorneys

Jessica Shumaker//November 6, 2019//

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The Missouri Supreme Court has stayed a one-year suspension and ordered 18 months of probation in the cases of two Riverside family law attorneys who admitted to violating ethics rules in their handling of a contentious child-custody dispute.

The court’s Oct. 29 order was in line with the recommendation made by a disciplinary hearing panel in July. The attorneys, Mandee Pingel and Patrick Davis of Davis, Pingel & Associates, accepted the panel’s recommendation in August.

The law partners’ disciplinary cases stemmed from their representation of a mother seeking custody of her son in a Clay County Circuit Court case.

OCDC alleged the two showed a pattern of professional misconduct and litigation abuse in the case, which gave rise to a $100,000 sanctions order against them in 2016.

During a disciplinary hearing in June, Pingel and Davis jointly admitted to and apologized for their actions in the case, including:

  • Filing a post-trial request for judicial findings which contained 2,265 individually numbered paragraphs, including incomplete sentences
  • Scheduling a deposition of an expert witness on a Saturday in violation of a court order
  • Sending a 44-page letter ex parte to an opposing party’s expert witness
  • Receiving more than $400,000 in attorney fees for a custody-modification case.

The panel found that Pingel and Davis “engaged in multiple acts of misconduct,” including making a frivolous pretrial discovery request and knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal.

The panel found that they did not violate ethics rules, however, by sending interrogatories and a request for production of documents to a guardian ad litem in the case.

The two attorneys also agreed to abide by three special conditions for probation: They have agreed to submit to an audit of their trust account, use The Missouri Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution Program to resolve future client fee disputes during the probationary period and use a mentor for advice on practice management.

The court also ordered Pingel and Davis to each pay a $1,500 fee.

Daniel F. Church of Morrow Willnauer Church in Kansas City represented Pingel and Davis. He could not be reached for comment.

The cases are In re: Davis, SC98081, and In Re: Pingel, SC98082.

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