A Tri-City attorney gave up her law license to avoid disciplinary action and likely disbarment for lying to clients in three separate lawsuits.
Lacey Adell Young submitted her resignation from membership in the Washington State Bar Association on Sept. 30. It became effective Jan. 1 and was filed the following day with the clerk of the disciplinary board.
She said she consulted with a lawyer before deciding it was best to resign under the new Rule for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct.
Young did not admit the ethical misconduct that was alleged by Jonathan Burke, the Seattle-based association's senior disciplinary counsel, but she acknowledged he had evidence to prove the violations and that would be enough to result in discipline.
Young already was on suspension when she resigned.
She was admitted to the Washington bar in June 2004. The association's online lawyer directory gave a West Richland address for Young.
The statement of alleged misconduct, written by Burke, said she was an associate with Herrig & Vogt LLP. An online search shows the law firm is based in Granite Bay, Calif., but has lawyers who are members of the Washington State Bar and has an office in Kennewick.
Young was served with a formal complaint last June. On Sept. 30, Burke gave details in a six-page statement of the cases mishandled by Young and summarized that she violated multiple Rules of Professional Conduct.
According to Burke's document, Young represented a Richland couple from June 2007 through September 2010 in connection with water rights litigation.
When someone allegedly tampered with well equipment owned by the couple and threatened to shut off their water supply, Young got a stipulated preliminary injunction restraining the person. But when the husband told Young to pursue claims against the man for trespassing and attorney fees, Young didn't believe it was necessary and repeatedly evaded the husband's requests.
She eventually said she wanted to wait until the couple's lawsuit against a water company and another individual was done.
In January 2009, a Benton County Superior Court judge entered findings in favor of the couple and said they were entitled to a judgment. However, Young never got a judgment and gave different stories to her clients for the delay, Burke wrote.
At one point, Young falsely claimed that Judge Carrie Runge suggested "we simply present the judgment during ex parte hours next week. ..." The husband gave Young drafts of two demand letters to edit and send to the attorneys for the defendants, but she never followed through despite later giving fake copies to her clients.
Young then told the couple she obtained a judgment but, when the husband sent a number of emails asking for more information on how he was to collect, the attorney claimed she had to wait to see if a notice of appeal was filed. She falsely told the couple that one of the defendants had appealed, and even gave them fake documents purporting to be the appeal and copies of a judgment entered by Runge, according to the allegations against Young.
The documents included the falsified signature of George Fearing, then an attorney representing one of the defendants and who now is a Washington Court of Appeals judge.
And finally in February 2010, Young claimed she and another attorney were meeting in chambers with the judge to discuss attorney fees on the trespassing issue but said her clients weren't permitted to attend.
The other two unrelated cases involved Young telling clients she was pursuing claims or filing a lawsuit but failing to ever do work. One matter was for a Pasco couple who wanted to take action against the contractor who built their house and the city, and the other matter was for a family having structural problems with the modular home they'd purchased in 2008.
Young agreed not to seek reinstatement to the state bar association because any effort would be barred, and must notify any other jurisdictions where she's been admitted to practice law and submit permanent resignations there as well.
She also agreed that when applying for any employment, she "will disclose the resignation in response to any question regarding disciplinary action" or the status of her law license.
Young will pay $1,000 as "a confession of judgment" to the bar association to cover expenses, and any additional costs ordered by a review committee.
w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer