Dan K. Purdy, an 86-year-old Missouri attorney, has been suspended indefinitely for groping five clients and touching the buttocks of another client. The Missouri Supreme Court returned a 4-3 decision on March 21, issuing the suspension but not the draft ban. A disciplinary committee had recommended the ban, but most judges opted for an indefinite suspension with no opportunity to seek reinstatement for 12 months.
Judge Zel M. Fischer pleaded for a disqualification, saying Purdy’s behavior was “outrageous and outrageous.” In Fischer’s disagreement, he argued that the time for a temporary suspension as punishment for sexually assaulting or harassing a client was over. Fischer also argued that Purdy’s age should not be a factor in determining appropriate discipline.
Video footage from September 2020 confirmed Purdy made sexual advances towards four female clients in a prison interview room, including kissing and reaching under their coveralls. In March 2021, Purdy was caught in courtroom video touching a client’s buttocks, although the client did not think the touch was inappropriate. A sixth client recorded video in September 2021 showing Purdy rubbing her breast while driving.
In his defense, Purdy claimed his clients “seduced” him and vowed not to repeat similar acts. However, the Disciplinary Hearing Panel found his allegations disingenuous as he continued his pattern of inappropriate behavior after the ethics case was filed against him.
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Purdy has a history of ethical violations, which has resulted in multiple warnings, one reprimand for violating ethics related to communications, protection of property, due diligence and accountability to paralegals. He also received a suspended suspension for notarizing documents without seeing his client’s signature.
Despite Purdy’s full disclosure to the Disciplinary Committee and the filing of several letters confirming his good character, Chief Justice George W. Draper III found the suspension consistent with attorneys’ punishment for prior sexual misconduct. Purdy has been suspended for 15 months.
Purdy had argued that he needed no further discipline or, alternatively, should be given an indefinite suspension “with permission to seek reinstatement after six months.” However, the court rejected his argument and ordered a three-year suspension.
Attempts to reach Purdy using a phone number found on the internet proved unsuccessful as the mailbox was full. His attorney, Daniel F. Church, did not immediately respond to an email and voicemail asking for comment.
Regardless of what happens next, this case is a reminder that even seasoned attorneys must maintain the highest standards of ethics and professionalism when representing their clients. It also shows that in cases of sexual misconduct, an appropriate punishment can be more severe than in cases of misconduct alone. For this reason, it is now more important than ever for lawyers to be aware of the consequences when ethical and professional behavioral boundaries are violated.
At least one thing is certain – this case will have a lasting impact on the way lawyers treat their clients and what constitutes appropriate behavior for lawyers in the future. With this in mind, all legal professionals must remain vigilant as they adhere to the highest standards of professional responsibility and ethical conduct. It will ensure a safe and productive work environment for all involved.
The Missouri Supreme Court decision is also a stark reminder that any form of sexual misconduct or harassment of clients or other parties can result in severe disciplinary action, up to and including permanent disbarment from the legal profession. Therefore, all attorneys should take note of this case and remember that unprofessional or unethical behavior will not be tolerated. All legal professionals must be aware of their ethical obligations and the consequences of failing to comply. This helps lawyers provide the best possible service to all of their clients.