- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Supreme Court has rejected an Anaconda attorney’s unusual request to immediately disbar him over more than $354,000 stolen from clients and a trial lawyers’ organization for which he was the longtime secretary and treasurer.

David McLean, who is the father-in-law of Lt. Gov. Angela McLean, admitted in his petition to the state’s high court that he misappropriated at least $321,866 from his clients and another $32,714 from “an attorney-related organization for which he served as its Secretary/Treasurer.”

McLean asked the Supreme Court to disbar him instead of going through the disciplinary system for lawyers set by the court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel and Commission on Practice. That way, McLean’s former clients could seek immediate relief from the Montana Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, and any delays that would undermine confidence in the judicial system would be eliminated, his attorney wrote in the Aug. 28 petition.

But the Supreme Court said in a unanimous 6-0 decision Tuesday that McLean must go through disciplinary proceedings to create a record to determine the restitution he will have to repay clients and any future requests for reinstatement.

Office of Disciplinary Counsel attorney Shaun Thompson said in a court filing that McLean’s request was unusual and “perhaps unprecedented.” The disciplinary counsel office opposed the idea, saying that allowing McLean to skirt the disciplinary system would create a bad precedent and prevent investigators from discovering whether there was additional misconduct.

“To allow lawyers to attempt to bypass the system and rules would create a perilous precedent with perhaps unintended consequences,” Thompson wrote.

McLean’s attorney, Michael McMahon, said Wednesday that McLean was only trying to do right by his former clients in speeding up the process to recover their money. Their claims won’t be processed until McLean is disbarred, McMahon said.

“He tried to do the right thing to help the clients he harmed,” McMahon said. “These victims have been victimized again.”

McMahon declined to say, and McLean’s petition does not say, how many clients McLean stole from. American Board of Trial Advocates’ Montana chapter President Randy Cox confirmed that McLean stole the $32,714 from his organization, where McLean was secretary and treasurer for more than 10 years.

“I was shocked by it,” Cox said. “He’s the last person I would have expected to do something like this.”

Michael McLean, who is David McLean’s son and the lieutenant governor’s husband, informed the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of his father’s misappropriations in July. A McLean & McLean law firm review determined that David McLean had deposited the money into the law firm’s account and made disbursements to himself.


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