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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2007-101

IN RE: KENNETH SAWKHOON HAN

S.J.C. Order of Indefinite Suspension entered by Justice Cowin on April 4, 2008.1

SUMMARY2

The respondent misappropriated funds held for a client and spent those funds for his own purposes. In addition, the respondent failed to cooperate with bar counselís investigation, and was defaulted for failure to respond to a petition for discipline.

In the fall of 2005, the respondent was retained to represent a client in the sale of her business. On October 28, 2005, the client executed an Asset Purchase and Sale Agreement for the sale of her business to the buyer for $75,000, including a $10,000 deposit to be paid by the buyer to the client. On the same date, the buyer gave the respondent a check payable to the Law Office of Kenneth Han for $10,000 for the deposit. On November 18, 2005, the respondent deposited this check into his IOLTA account. This deposit brought the balance of the respondentís IOLTA account to $10,080.13.

On November 25, 2005, the closing was held, and the transaction finalized. On this same date, the respondent paid the client the deposit funds of $10,000 less a $30 transaction fee, by check for $9,970 from his IOLTA account. Before negotiating this check, the client left the country for approximately six months, and then relocated to California.

Between June 2006 and November 2006, the respondent intentionally misappropriated the clientís funds from his IOLTA account and used them for unrelated business and personal purposes. By November 2006, the balance in the respondentís IOLTA account fell to $37.04. In addition, between December 2005 and November 2006, the respondent made several withdrawals from his IOLTA account by checks payable to ďcashĒ.

In or about July 2006, the client attempted to negotiate the check. However, the check was returned for insufficient funds. Over the next several months, the client made several telephone calls and left several messages for the respondent regarding the dishonored check. The respondent failed to return the clientís telephone messages.

In or about mid-December 2006, the respondent contacted his client and told her that he would send her $5,000 by the following week and another $5,000 by January 2007. The respondent failed to forward any funds to his client.

By converting the clientís funds for his own business and personal uses, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(c) and (d), and Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c) and (h). By withdrawing funds from the IOLTA account by checks payable to ďcashĒ, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. 1.15(e) (3). The respondent also failed to respond to his clientís reasonable requests for information, and thus failed to act with diligence and promptness, in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.3 and 1.4(a) and (b).

In addition, the respondent failed to cooperate with bar counselís investigation. On July 11, 2006, Bank of America forwarded to bar counsel a dishonored check report relative to the IOLTA account of the respondent. This overdraft notice was related to the respondentís returned check payable to the above-mentioned client in the amount of $9,970.

By letter dated August 16, 2006, bar counsel sent the respondent a copy of the dishonored check with a request for an explanation. The respondent failed to respond to this request and repeated requests by bar counsel. As a result, a subpoena was issued by bar counsel for the respondentís appearance before bar counsel. The respondent failed to appear.

The respondent also failed to reply to bar counselís inquiries regarding the request for investigation filed by the above-mentioned client. As a result, a separate subpoena was issued requiring the respondentís appearance before bar counsel. The respondent failed to appear pursuant to this subpoena as well.

The respondentís failure without good cause to cooperate with bar counselís investigation violated Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, ß 3 and Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4 (g) and (h).

In aggravation, the respondent previously received a public reprimand with probation for neglecting his clientís case, resulting in dismissal of her cause of action, failure to keep his client reasonably informed on the status of her case, and failure to cooperate with bar counselís investigation, mitigated by alcoholism and depression. Matter of Han, 20 Mass. Attíy Disc. R 209 (2004).

In further aggravation, the respondent failed to file an answer to a petition for discipline and was defaulted by the Board of Bar Overseers. The respondent was admitted to the Massachusetts bar on June 28, 1994. On April 21, 2006, the respondent was administratively suspended for failure to pay bar registration dues and has not been reinstated.

On October 15, 2007, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to recommend that the respondent be disbarred from the practice of law. After an Information was filed with the Supreme Judicial Court, the respondent appeared and requested a remand. The court entered a temporary suspension order on December 4, 2007. On March 28, 2008, the respondent made full restitution. On April 4, 2008, the Court ordered that the respondent be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law, retroactive to December 4, 2007, the date of his temporary suspension.


FOOTNOTES:

1 The complete Order of the Court is available by contacting the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County.

2 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record before the Supreme Judicial Court.



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