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Kansas Suspends Lawyer Who Forged Judge’s Signature

March 2, 2020, 6:29 PM

A Kansas attorney who forged the signatures of a judge and a clerk, neglected numerous clients and fabricated court pleadings, has been suspended for two years by the state’s top court.

A “two-year period of suspension is warranted given the serious nature of the respondent’s acts that gave rise to the multiple violations in this matter,” the Kansas Supreme Court’s Feb. 28 opinion said.

But attorney Laurel R. Kupka can reapply for reinstatement after nine months, the court said.

In 2011, Kupka joined Payne & Jones, Chartered, in Overland Park, Kan., as an associate. Her workload steadily increased over the years and she had limited supervision, the court said. By 2017, she was battling “severe depression and anxiety.”

In May 2019, the office of the Disciplinary Administrator filed a complaint against Kupka alleging she engaged in misconduct in 18 cases, the court said. This included making misrepresentations to clients and supervisors, failing to adequately communicate with her clients, and failing to timely complete tasks.

In two separate instances she forged signatures, the court said. In the first, Kupka provided her supervising attorney with a judgment which purported to have been filed by a court in April 2015 but the court never entered judgment in that case and Kupka falsified the judge’s signature and court’s filed-stamp on the judgment, it said.

In the second, she cut and pasted the clerk’s signature from a garnishment application and order into a document in an unrelated case.

Kupka ultimately stipulated to violating professional conduct rules on competence, diligence, communication, truthfulness, and dishonesty, all of which amounted to conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and that reflects adversely on her fitness to practice law, the court said.

It noted the aggravating factors, which included that she was aware of her conduct, “which clearly involved dishonesty and that she was motivated by dishonesty,” a pattern of misconduct, and multiple offenses.

Mitigating factors included no prior disciplinary record; depression, anxiety, and “genuine remorse” for her behavior, the court said.

In determining the sanction, it said that although Kupka had made “notable strides” in addressing what led to her “ethical transgressions,” it wanted to be sure that she “had in place a structure in her personal life and professional practice that protects the public from future transgressions.”

The case is In re Kupka, 2020 BL 74023, Kan., No. 122,053, 2/28/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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