Court says no to attorney's appeal

A Kennewick attorney won't be allowed to practice law for the next three years.

The State Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Terry J. Preszler's appeal of the Washington State Bar Association Disciplinary Board's recommendation for a three-year suspension of his license to practice.

The disciplinary board found Preszler had charged an unreasonable fee, given mistaken legal advice, filed false documents and did not obtain necessary approval before distributing proceeds from his client's personal injury claim to himself.

Preszler violated six rules of professional conduct, according to the board.

"I'm disappointed. I don't agree with it. But I'm willing to accept it," Preszler said Thursday.

He said his immediate priority was to contact his clients and make arrangements to transfer their cases to other attorneys.

Preszler said it was a case of misinterpretation of law when he told a client who was in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding with her husband how much money she could keep from a personal injury settlement claim instead of paying creditors.

According to court documents, Preszler could have saved the client an additional $10,000 under a certain legal provision.

Documents also say Preszler paid himself more than $10,000 without first obtaining court approval. He later returned the money when his clients, Kinnie and Jeffery Gerrard, hired another attorney who made the request.

The Gerrards filed a grievance against Preszler with the state bar association in 2004.

Preszler has practiced law in Kennewick since 1983. He was honored in 2003 by the Benton-Franklin Legal Aid Society for his pro bono services.

Preszler argued he had never had any prior complaints filed against him to the association and that the Gerrards didn't suffer any actual or potentially serious injury, but the board decided to impose a three-year suspension.

In February 2009, he appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, which after 16 months upheld the board's recommendation.