People v. Chappell
Colorado Supreme Court
927 P.2d 829 (1996)
Attorney Lorraine Chappell (respondent) represented the wife in a divorce involving a minor son and an expected daughter. The court initially granted the wife temporary custody of the son and use of the family home, and a mutual restraining order prohibiting either parent from taking the son out of state. A court-appointed expert was going to recommend that the husband have sole custody of both children, and Chappell advised the wife that the court would probably accept that recommendation. Chappell advised the wife “as her attorney to stay, but as a mother to run.” Chappell told the wife about underground safehouses, helped her empty bank accounts, and coordinated storing her belongings. Chappell appeared at the temporary orders hearing without the wife and argued against a change in interim orders. When the court asked where her client was, Chappell asserted attorney-client privilege. The court ordered an immediate custody change to the husband. However, the husband offered continued support payments, which Chappell requested be paid into the court’s registry. The husband then discovered the wife had moved and filed an emergency motion for custody and pick-up of the son. Chappell testified at subsequent hearings that the wife was out of state and that Chappell had rented the storage facility pursuant to the wife’s request to safeguard her property, then withdrew from the case. The wife and son returned to Colorado after two weeks and lived at a battered women’s shelter. The husband regained custody of the son at a prenatal appointment, and the court granted him custody of the daughter after birth. The court found that Chappell perpetrated a fraud on the court by accepting the husband’s offer to continue paying support when she knew that the wife was “on the run” with the child. The wife testified at the permanent orders hearing that Chappell had told her about “the underground,” how to avoid being caught, and helped her liquidate bank accounts. The wife was subsequently charged with violation of a custody order, a class 5 felony. Chappell did not respond to the ensuing grievance complaint. A default was entered against her, deeming all allegations of fact in the complaint admitted. The board and the hearing panel recommended disbarment.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
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