JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court, at the behest of the Missouri Bar’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel, recently ruled to grant attorney Dennis J. Bonner’s petition to have his license to practice law revoked.
The motion was granted on Feb. 28, according to court
Bonner, who had previously been an elected state legislator, operated a practice in Lee’s Summit. According to a Kansas City Business Journal article, Bonner was under investigation for mishandling client settlement funds when he submitted his motion to voluntarily surrender his license.
According to the Business Journal report, Bonner misused his client trust account on several occasions, causing a snowball effect with an outcome that forced further misuse of the account. Bonner allegedly paid expenses for his personal wants and needs as well as the needs of his firm with the client trust account. By misusing client settlement funds, Bonner was unable to pay his clients what was owed to them.
To bandage the situation, Bonner would allegedly wait until he had received settlements for other clients to pay the previous settlements. It was a system the Supreme Court described as “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The Supreme Court noted 10 instances of Bonner’s misappropriation of client funds. There were six examples of his scheme gathering sums totaling nearly $55,000. Bonner attempted to reconcile the account by depositing $25,000 he acquired through a line of credit granted by the Bank at Grain Valley, but his attempt fell short. Bonner was unable to pay out all the settlement funds designated for clients and client medical providers in full.
According to court
documents, Bonner’s alleged misconduct violated several sections of the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct.
Bonner initially fought against losing his license, claiming that he should be permitted to continue practicing so that he could earn funds to pay off his debts. The court disagreed, and continued with the disciplinary proceedings, at which point the attorney submitted his motion to voluntarily surrender his license.
Following the ruling, the attorney must comply with Rule
5.27 of the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct. Bonner is unable to accept any new retainers for services or act as a lawyer in any new cases. The attorney will need to withdraw from any pending litigation and notify all current clients and necessary counselors to his status. The lawyer’s license will need to be submitted to the Supreme Court Clerk within 15 days of the ruling. Bonner will also need to return any unearned fees and notify any opposing counsel of the ruling.
Bonner was a state representative serving the 51st District from 1995 to 2003. He served four terms before moving into law. According to his profile page on the House website, Bonner, who served as a Democrat, is a native of Independence, Missouri.