An Alaska attorney who pleaded guilty to not filing tax returns for three years and spent time in prison now faces an 18-month suspension for breaching his ethical obligations as an attorney.
The Supreme Court of Alaska agreed with the sanction recommended by the state bar’s disciplinary board and stayed six of the 18 months. It also placed Paul D. Stockler under a two-year probationary period based on stipulated facts.
Stockler pleaded guilty in 2014 to three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file returns for 2006, 2008, and 2009. In addition to 14 months of jail time he was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $886,058 in restitution to the IRS. Stockler was released from incarceration in September 2018.
His conduct doesn’t amount to a “serious crime” such as a felony, but it does reflect adversely on his honesty as a lawyer, the court’s record said.
The record also noted “other issues” that weren’t directly related to the criminal conviction but had raised concerns about Stockler’s past conduct. A client whom Stockler had represented on criminal charges relating to the purchase of Soviet-era rocket launchers asked Stockler to deposit funds in Stockler’s personal E*Trade account.
More than $5 million was ultimately deposited in the account, the record noted.
According to the record, Stockler agreed he had “impermissibly commingled” his own funds with his former client’s funds, but “denied that he misappropriated any funds entrusted to him or took any actions that were contrary to the directives provided to him by his client.”
Bar counsel never filed charges against Stockler for misappropriation of client money, the record said.
Stockler will also have to pay $1,000 in costs and fees and complete both six hours of continuing legal education in legal ethics and nine hours in law office management courses.
The case is In re Stockler, 2020 BL 44627, Alaska, No. S-17685, 2/7/20.