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In the Matter of Steven T. Potts

Montana Supreme Court
158 P.3d 418 (2007)


Facts

Attorney Steven Potts (defendant) represented Evon Leistiko and her son Tyson in a will contest over the distribution of Evon’s mother’s estate. A significant part of the estate comprised joint tenancy accounts that Evon had held with her mother. When Potts represented Evon and Tyson in a settlement proceeding with the opposing parties, Evon and Tyson concealed from the opposing side that Evon had already secured some of the joint tenancy accounts to herself and planned to secure the remaining account shortly after settlement. The opposing parties proceeded with the settlement under the belief that those joint accounts were included in the negotiations for the distribution of the total estate. The opposing attorney directly confirmed to Potts that his clients believed those accounts were to be included in the settlement, and asked Potts to notify him if this belief was incorrect. Potts did not respond to the letter, based on Tyson’s instructions. Potts proceed to draft a settlement stipulation that concealed this misunderstanding as to the scope of the estate included in the settlement. In further litigation, the court found that the accounts should have been included in the settlement. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the State of Montana (plaintiff) pursued a complaint against Potts regarding his conduct in the settlement.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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