Former Town Attorney Disbarred

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A once-prominent attorney who represented the likes of Payson’s former mayor and a Tonto Basin woman arrested for helping fugitives evade capture, has been disbarred.

Harlan Green made no effort to fight the expulsion, refusing to cooperate with the State Bar of Arizona’s investigation. Green didn’t even show up to court to defend himself or respond to multiple requests for information, according to court documents.

Initially, a judge suspended Green from practicing law for six months and a day in March after finding he had violated several Rules of Professional Conduct.

Those findings were based on Green’s mishandling of four cases, including those involving a trust account, forming a limited liability corporation for a client, mismanaging a client’s estate and taking financial advantage of a mentally disabled woman.

At the end of the six-month suspension, Green had the option of seeking reinstatement of his right to practice law, but chose not to.

Green never filed an answer to the Bar’s complaint or otherwise defended himself, court documents show.

He also did not return calls from the Roundup seeking comment.

Green’s actions, or lack thereof, gave the three-member hearing panel, led by William O’Neil, presiding disciplinary judge of the Arizona Supreme Court, no choice but to disbar.

“Neither the State Bar nor this hearing panel can help those who choose not to be helped, or rehabilitate an errant lawyer such as Mr. Green who has shown that he no longer wishes even to be a lawyer,” the panel found.

Green, an Arizona State University graduate, started practicing law 31 years ago.

In Payson, he handled several prominent cases. For instance, he represented two Gila County Narcotics Task Force officers when they sued the town as well as a Tonto Basin woman arrested for helping her son hide out after his escape from a Kingman prison in 2010. In 2002, Green defended Payson Mayor Ken Murphy against disorderly conduct charges and in 2003 he defended a day care operator accused of sexually assaulting a developmentally disabled woman.

Green was known for his brash, aggressive style.

In recent years, Green had come under attack for his management of cases, which wreaked havoc on his clients, according to court documents.

Besides the four cases the board initially found he mishandled, it found five other counts of malpractice.

The court’s recent conclusions included:

Count 1: Collecting judgment

A woman hired Green in July 2010 to help her collect a $500 judgment owed to her. The woman initially paid Green $825 for his services.

When the defendant asked Green if he could forego a payment because he was trying to buy a home, Green agreed, without asking his client first. Although Green’s client did not receive all of the judgment owed to her, Green still charged her nearly $3,600. The board found Green’s fees were not justified, according to court documents.

Count 2: Accident claim

A couple, involved in a car accident in 2007, sought Green’s help dealing with insurers. The couple, not at fault for the wreck, was trying to recoup damages.

The defendant’s insurer repeatedly asked Green for discovery information, but Green ignored the requests, according to court documents. Eventually, the court threw out the case. The couple fired Green and settled the case without him.

Count 3: Hurricane of a suit

A woman, who had lost her home in Hurricane Katrina, moved to Payson after receiving federal funds. When the woman decided to marry, she deeded half of the home’s interest to her future husband. When the relationship soured and ended, the woman tried to get back his interest in the property, but he refused the offer. Green filed a suit against the man, but then ignored the case and the woman for the next two years. The woman attempted to reach Green repeatedly and eventually settled the case on her own.

Count 4: Custody case

A woman, seeking to keep custody of her children, hired Green in 2009. The State Bar found Green failed to file necessary paperwork for the woman’s appeal, causing her to lose parental rights. The State Bar also found Green charged the woman an unreasonable fee and failed to communicate and cooperate with investigators.

Count 5: Minor drug case

While the State Bar was investigating Green for the four initial cases, he was still representing clients. One of those was a juvenile charged for a drug offense.

Anticipating that he would be suspended from practice when the juvenile appeared in court next, Green arranged for substitute counsel, but did not tell his client this.

When the juvenile appeared before the judge, Green was not there and neither was his substitute, putting a plea agreement in jeopardy.

At the time, Green had not been suspended from practice and could have appeared in court on the juvenile’s behalf.

In all of the cases, the State Bar asked Green repeatedly to address the charges against him, but he did not.

The court found Green not only violated the duties owed to his clients, but also the profession of law, the legal system and the public.

“He abandoned his practice and clients, knowingly failed to perform services for which he was retained, and even deliberately refused to assist his abandoned clients after the fact by failing to return their files, account for fees or participate in SBA (State Bar of Arizona)-sponsored fee arbitration,” the court found.

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