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In the Matter of the Disciplinary Proceeding Against Larry A. Botimer

166 Wash. 2d 759 (2009)

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In the Matter of the Disciplinary Proceeding Against Larry A. Botimer

Washington Supreme Court

166 Wash. 2d 759 (2009)

Facts

For several years, attorney Larry Botimer (defendant) was a tax preparer and tax advisor for Ruth Reinking and Ruth’s son and daughter-in-law, Jan and Janet Reinking. Botimer never obtained written conflict waivers from any Reinking family member. Botimer also advised Ruth regarding her ownership stake in a nursing home, Magnolia Health Care Center, Inc. (Magnolia). After Ruth retired, Ruth leased Magnolia to Jan and Janet. Botimer prepared Magnolia’s tax returns. Botimer advised Ruth regarding Alternative Care Corporation (ACC), a care facility that Ruth’s other son, James Reinking, operated. Botimer helped both Ruth and Jan negotiate a potential restructuring of ACC with James after James claimed that Ruth and Jan did not have ownership stakes in ACC. In 2000, Ruth, Jan, and Janet closed Magnolia and sold the property. Although Jan and Janet expected half of the sale’s proceeds, Ruth instead used the proceeds to pay off loans for ACC. Moreover, Botimer advised Ruth on estate planning and Jan as a potential beneficiary of Ruth’s estate. In 2002, Botimer wrote a letter to Ruth terminating his representation of Ruth and informing Ruth that he would notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that Ruth’s tax records misstated her taxable income. In 2004, Jan and Janet sued Ruth, James, and ACC to recover half of the proceeds from the Magnolia property sale. Botimer provided Jan and Janet’s attorney with three declarations containing Ruth’s financial and business information. Ruth did not consent to the disclosure, and no court ordered the disclosure. The Washington State Bar Association (plaintiff) initiated disciplinary proceedings against Botimer, alleging that Botimer had failed to obtain Ruth’s informed, written waiver of the conflict of interest and had violated Ruth’s attorney-client privilege. The hearing officer found that Botimer had breached ethical duties and recommended a six-month suspension. Botimer appealed to the Disciplinary Board, which largely affirmed the hearing officer’s findings and recommended the six-month suspension. The Washington Supreme Court reviewed the recommendation.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Owens, J.)

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