The Supreme Court of Missouri disbarred now-former attorney Lenny Kagan, who ran a solo criminal defense and personal injury practice in Clayton, on Oct. 3.
Among the misconduct allegations against Kagan is that he falsified his client’s signature, without her consent, in a filing to the Drug Enforcement Agency. When asked by the agency why one signature looked different than another made by the client, Kagan lied, saying it was because the client was nervous about the case. During the disciplinary case, he claimed the client had authorized him to sign.
Kagan also failed to make the filing on time, resulting in the client forfeiting her claim to $16,882. In July 2020, Kagan sent a claim to the DEA that included a letter captioned “Third Request,” in which he attempted to convince the DEA that he had filed claims with them in February 2019 and November 2018, the latter being the deadline. The DEA was not convinced and closed the matter in February 2021. Eight months later, in November 2021, Kagan informed the client for the first time that the claim was denied.
For this matter, the Disciplinary Hearing Panel concluded that Hagan violated rules concerning competence, diligence, communication, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Another allegation against Kagan stemmed from the Bank of America reporting an overdraft from Kagan’s trust account. Evidence showed that 10 checks paid from the trust account were for personal expenses. The checks totaled $41,142.28, including a check for $14,831.08 to purchase a hot tub. For this, the hearing panel concluded that Hagan committed misconduct and violated six rules concerning trust accounts and the property of others.
In a case involving a client who was owed money by another individual, Kagan told the borrower that, “As a former State Prosecuting Attorney, I must advise you that there are criminal implications in your actions as well. My client will pursue felony Stealing charges against you as well as report you to Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency.” For this, the hearing panel concluded that Hagan violated rules that concern dealing with unrepresented persons and respect for third persons.
Aggravating factors included that Kagan had a dishonest or selfish motive, that there was a pattern of misconduct, that there were multiple offenses, that Hagan submitted false evidence and false statements during the disciplinary process, that he refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct, and that he — as a member of the bar since 2002 — has substantial experience as a lawyer, according to the hearing. The only mitigating factor, according to the panel, was that Kagan had no prior disciplinary record.
Chief Disciplinary Counsel Laura E. Elsbury requested that the Supreme Court disbar Kagan.
In his brief, Kagan argued that the trust fund issues arose from mistakes that he has admitted and remedied. His brief said he “believes the allegations concerning client representations were in many instances unproven.” A stayed suspension with two years’ probation would be an appropriate disciplinary action, he argued.
The Supreme Court agreed with the hearing panel’s conclusions on Kagan’s violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and disbarred Kagan.
Michael P. Downey of the Downey Law Group, who represented Kagan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is In re: Kagan, SC100046