October 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

The saga of Hinds County attorney Michael J. Brown, addressed here in a prior post, reached its latest, most forecastable milestone last week with the order for his disbarment by the MSSC on October 4, 2012, in the case of Mississippi Bar v. Michael J. Brown.

Brown’s multiple transgressions in the handling of the Demon B. McClinton guardianship were brought to light in the Chancery Court of Hinds County where Judge Dewayne Thomas demanded that Brown produce an accounting, which Brown claimed he was unable to do due to destruction of records by water damage. Thomas appointed a guardian ad litem, who executed a search warrant on Brown’s residence and located the records that Brown claimed had been destroyed. At hearing the proof established that:

  • Brown had caused $550,000 of the minor’s funds to be loaned to one Linus Shackelford. Other than the loan in question, Shackelford’s relationship to Brown or McClinton is not revealed in the record.
  • Brown personally had signed a promissory note indicating that he personally had borrowed $507,745.81 from the minor McClinton.
  • Brown had forged two checks from Regions Bank in the sum of $205,020.81 and $32,725, respectively.
  • Brown caused the court on September 7, 2001, to approve a fee of $398,000, which the chancellor determined to be outrageous and unreasonable, and which fee was approved based upon Brown’s commission of a fraud upon the Court. To compound the malfeasance, Brown had plagiarized an opinion letter justifying the fee, which was the fraudulent act.
  • Brown perjured himself by claiming under oath that the records had been destroyed.
  • Brown cashed and deposited into his escrow account, rather than the guardianship account, life insurance proceeds paid on the death of the ward’s mother.

When Brown finally produced an accounting, it showed that he had disbursed $1,295,783.81 of guardianship funds, all from his escrow account and not from any approved guardianship account. None of the disbursements were authorized by the court. $235,000 in checks were made out to cash or to Brown, or were endorsed by Brown. The loan to Shackleford was never approved by the court.

So, based on his outrageous and entirely unjustifiable conduct, the MSSC disbarred him.

The next development is in the hands of the District Attorney for Hinds and Rankin Counties, who has been provided with the chancery court judgment and likely the file. 

You may be sitting there smugly thinking “Well, I will never do anything like that,” so that you can skim past this. But here’s the deal: even if you never engage in this kind of outright contempt, fraud, embezzlement, perjury and breach of fiduciary duty, if you handle the fiduciary matters entrusted to you in a sloppy fashion your good intentions and lack of criminal intent will not be enough to shield you from contempt, possible bar disciplinary action, money damages, and destruction of your reputation and standing with the court. Think about it: if you can’t account properly and in full for money entrusted to you, it doesn’t really matter if you weren’t acting criminally.

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