Florida legal professional disbarred over alimony dispute that led to a jail sentence


Florida attorney disbarred over alimony dispute that led to a prison sentence

The Florida Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney who “evaded disclosure requests” in a lawsuit with his ex-wife over $88,000 in missed child support payments.

The Florida Supreme Court stripped Karl O. Koepke of his license in an Oct. 28 order noted by the Legal Profession Blog and Law.com.

Koepke divorced in 1990. After Koepke defaulted on child support payments, his ex-wife’s attorney, who heard one of Koepke’s personal injury cases, may have settled. The ex-wife’s attorney requested documents to compare and filed for foreclosure when Koepke refused.

Koepke provided a copy of the fee agreement, but did not produce any documents related to the September 2016 settlement, which would pay him a $400,000 contingency fee.

He said there were no documents responding to the request, “there is no agreement”.

When a judge ordered Koepke to retrieve the customer file, Koepke complied and the settlement was uncovered. The ex-wife’s attorney filed an order to show why Koepke should not be despised.

“Mr. Koepke undeterred made a number of even more consequential decisions,” the Florida Supreme Court said.

Koepke transferred his $400,000 fee to an irrevocable trust he set up for the benefit of himself and his grandchildren.

Koepke then offered to settle the lawsuit with his ex-wife for a payment of $100,000 – if the contempt motion and other motions were dismissed and if the ex-wife waived all past, present and future claims for child support and attorneys’ fees. The ex-wife refused.

Koepke was found guilty of indirect criminal contempt and sentenced to 30 days in prison. He served 20 days.

A referee had recommended a one-year ban. The Florida Supreme Court dismissed the sentence as too lenient and imposed a professional ban.

Koepke “abused the court process in a manner that has resulted in a serious disruption of his alimony proceedings,” the Florida Supreme Court said. Koepke “dodged investigative requests” and “refused to answer questions truthfully,” the state Supreme Court said. He also “hasty” set up a trust to put contingency fees out of reach.

“This was fraudulent abuse of the process by someone who knew better,” the Florida Supreme Court said.

The trial judge had estimated that Koepke’s actions required “100 or more hours of attorney time and hours of court time to resolve.”

“In concluding that Mr. Koepke should be barred, we recognize that divorce proceedings can bring out the worst in people,” the Florida Supreme Court said. “But even at worst, we expect a lawyer’s oath to mean something. Yes, we expect the oath to mean something just then.”

Koepke did not immediately respond to an email request from ABA Journal for comment.

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