Former judge Kenneth Harper has law license suspended
The state Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct suspended the law license of former District Judge and Monticello attorney, Kenneth Alan Harper, last week after finding that he “abandoned” clients after breaking his hip in 2012.
According to the court order, Harper’s license will be suspended for 36 months and he was ordered to pay approximately $5,000 in retribution to five clients who were “abandoned.”
“(Harper) was recently sanctioned for misconduct by the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct,” said Stark Ligon, executive director. “The committee came to its decision after reviewing five findings. The ranking of public sanctions, from least severe to most severe is: caution, reprimand, suspension and disbarment (which includes surrender of license in lieu of disbarment).”
The formal charges of misconduct came about through court filings in Chicot, Lincoln, Ashley, Bradley and Drew Counties.
In September 2012, Harper was contacted by Jason Ward concerning changes to the visitation schedule of his son arising out of a domestic relations matter in Chicot County. Harper agreed to represent Ward and quoted him a fee of $750, which Ward was unable to pay in its entirety. As per agreement between the parties, Ward began making installments and after the last payment was made, attempts to contact Harper about the status of the his legal matter were unsuccessful. According to court documents, “the telephone numbers to Harper’s officer were disconnected, the office was empty and emails were not responded to by Mr. Harper.” Records also show that as of March 22, 2013, no post-divorce activity had been initiated on Ward’s behalf.
In December 2011, Harper was contacted by Stephanie Jones concerning a probate matter in Lincoln County. Harper agreed to represent her and quoted a fee of $1,500. In January 2012, Jones signed over to Harper a check in the amount of $10,000 from an insurance company. Harper then issued Jones a check in the amount of $8,500 hence keeping his $1,500 fee. In November 2012, after multiple attempts to contact Harper on the matter, Jones went to the Lincoln County Courthouse to see if anything had been filed on her behalf and was advised that nothing had been filed.
In March 2012, Harper agreed to represent Christopher Thomas Agpaoa in a criminal case filed in Ashley County for the fee of $500. Agpaoa attempted to contact Harper on numerous occasions but his office phone had been disconnected.
In August 2012, Harper agreed to represent Cody Daniel, of Hampton, in a lawsuit concerning a property issue in Bradley County. After the man paid Harper $750, Harper filed an answer to the lawsuit with the Bradley County Circuit Clerk but did not provide the Daniel with a copy. Daniel attempted to contact Harper at his office concerning the status of his legal matter but the Harper’s office phone had been disconnected.
In July 2012, Patrick L. Miller, of Fountain Hill, hired Harper to file a lawsuit on his behalf against an individual who failed to meet the terms of a contract in an automobile sale. Harper filed the lawsuit and had little contact with Miller until he received a notice of a Dec. 10, 2012, court date. Miller appeared in court on that date but Harper never showed. Apparently, Harper had filed a motion of continuance with out informing Miller. After court, Miller called Harper’s office telephone number but the telephone service had been disconnected.
In his defense, Harper informed the court that he broke his right hip in November 2012, “which required surgery and post-hospital recover, which prevented him from practicing law.” He said that he was out of the office for more than 100 days and that when he returned his staff had quit and the utilities had been shut off.
“This was not a matter of professional negligence but a case where professional duties were disrupted by a major, life-changing personal injury,” argued Harper.
However, Harper did not provide the court with medical records.
In conclusion of the investigation, the court found 18 instances of Harper violating the Rules of Professional conduct.
Attempts to contact Harper were unsuccessful.