An ailing, elderly, Iowa lawyer has been suspended by the state’s highest court for a series of probate matter delinquencies and for his bad attitude.
Attorney Duane J. Goedken’s delinquencies, coupled with his ‘flippant’ attitude toward the court, warranted a 90-day suspension, the Iowa Supreme Court said, though it called the term “indefinite.” Among his transgressions, he told an attorney grievance panel that he had “better things to do” with his time than file “silly” reports.
Goedken, 81, was late in filing nine court-ordered reports while handling one trust and five estate matters, according to the state’s top court. After he failed to cure those delinquencies, the court’s attorney disciplinary board filed a complaint against him, which he ignored, prompting a more than two-month suspension. He was reinstated after responding to the complaint and paying a reinstatement fee.
But, the Muscatine, Iowa, attorney never told his clients that he’d been suspended and didn’t withdraw from representation, the court noted. It also said Goedken’s failure to diligently file the required reports was “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
The high court found numerous aggravating factors, including prior reprimands for probate delinquencies dating to the 1980s; Goedken’s more than 56 years in practice; his failure to cooperate with and dismissive attitude toward the board. He also wrongly continued practicing law during that initial suspension.
Goedken did have significant health and emotional issues beginning in 2014, when he had a heart attack, the court said. He then began experiencing eye problems that became so acute, he couldn’t read the computer screen. And in 2018, his daughter died after being diagnosed with breast cancer, the court said. Many of the delinquencies occurred because he couldn’t read the computer screen and some of the neglect was due to his health and emotional issues, it said.
But, noting Goedken is considering retirement, reducing concern for protecting the public, the court said the attorney could apply for reinstatement after 90 days.
The case is Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Goedken, 2020 BL 55102, Iowa, No. 19-1740, 2/14/20.