FARMINGTON — James Pennoyer has withdrawn from several cases since being disbarred last month.
The Farmington attorney and former judge was disbarred by default on Oct. 23, which means he currently can not practice law in Missouri.
Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.27 states disbarred lawyers can not accept any new retainer or act as a lawyer for another in any new case or legal matter; and shall withdraw from representation in pending matters “in a matter that will minimize any material adverse effect on the clients’ interests.”
Within 15 days of the effective date of an order of disbarment, the attorney must notify all clients in writing and any counsel in pending matters that the lawyer has been disbarred and that clients should make arrangements for other representation.
The rule further states the attorney must deliver or return to all clients in pending matters any papers/property that they are entitled to; and refund any part of any fees paid in advance that have not been earned. The attorneys must notify opposing counsel or opposing parties of the disbarment.
Pennoyer’s withdrawal notice states that he is subject of disciplinary action by the Missouri Supreme Court and is required by the Court to withdraw from representation. It states the current plan is for the client to be represented by “successor counsel.”
Pennoyer couldn’t be reached immediately for comment on what his plans are. Last week, he and his wife said they have hired an attorney to work to get him reinstated.
Since it was a default disbarment, Pennoyer can take action to get reinstated. However, Case.net does not yet show that any motion has been filed.
Several cases before Associate Circuit Court Thomas L. Ray on Tuesday involved clients of Pennoyer’s. The cases were taken up individually and passed.
One family at the St. Francois County Courthouse Tuesday for a pending criminal matter said Pennoyer contacted them to let them know that he would be there to help but couldn’t appear as their attorney. He told the family he would help in acquiring a new attorney.
They plan to “hang in there” because Pennoyer “has been wonderful to us. We support him.”
Another client’s father said Pennoyer got another lawyer to take on their case.
A couple of former clients called the Daily Journal, complaining that they had problems with Pennoyer.
In the past several days, Circuit Court Clerk Vicki Weible and Prosecuting Attorney Wendy Wexler Horn’s office have been receiving calls from concerned clients who want to know what they should do now that their attorney has been disbarred. Horn said the only thing she knows to tell Pennoyer’s clients is to call Pennoyer’s office or the Missouri Bar Association.
Another attorney told the Daily Journal that clients can go to Pennoyer and ask for their file and money back that has not been earned. However, the attorney cautioned it is possible Pennoyer could be back in business within a week or a couple of weeks.
Copies of court records filed in court such as those in pending criminal or civil cases can also be viewed/obtained at the Circuit Court’s Office.
Pennoyer’s disbarment stems from a client who complained he hired Pennoyer but the attorney did nothing for him.
According to documents filed in the Missouri Supreme Court by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, the complaint was filed by a man who hired Pennoyer in July of 2008 to modify his custody agreement for his children. It states the man gave Pennoyer a $2,500 advance fee payment on that date.
The man said that over the next several months, he contacted Pennoyer several times about the status of his case. “(Pennoyer) always stated he was working on the matter and that it would be ready soon,” the document reads.
The man fired Pennoyer in March and asked for his file back. He received his file back a week later, but he said the only documents inside were those which he provided to Pennoyer. The man complained Pennoyer never prepared any pleadings nor took any legal action on behalf of him and did not give him his money back.
The allegations are that Pennoyer violated the rules on competence and diligence by failing to take legal action on behalf of the man in a reasonable time after being hired and given a $2,500 advance payment. It also states he failed to return all or any of the payment and failed to cooperate with and respond to letters by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
The documents show Pennoyer was served regarding the complaint on Aug. 26 by certified mail. He was given 30 days to respond.
It states, on Oct. 8, the Legal Ethics Counsel sent a copy of a letter to Pennoyer noting “the fact that no answer had been filed and advising this matter was ready for filing with the Court.”
Since he did not respond, Pennoyer was disbarred by default on Oct. 23. He was ordered to pay a $2,000 fee.
For more information on the Missouri Bar Association, visit http://www.mobar.org or call 573-635-4128. For more information on the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, visit http://www.mochiefcounsel.org/ or call 573-635-7400.
Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.