Attorney reciprocally disciplined in Missouri following suspension in Iowa

By Karen Kidd | Apr 8, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY – Iowa attorney Rodney H. Powell, practicing in Missouri for almost 40 years, has been reciprocally suspended following an April 3 Missouri Supreme Court order after he was suspended in Iowa for allegedly borrowing $20,000 from an elderly client.

The Missouri Supreme Court suspended Powell indefinitely with no leave to apply for reinstatement until after two years. The Missouri high court's order followed an Iowa Supreme Court ruling Nov. 17 suspending Powell for two years and ordering him to pay costs in the matter.

Powell, of Clive, Iowa, was admitted to the Missouri Bar April 29, 1978, according to his profile at The Missouri Bar's website. He has been licensed to practice law in Iowa since 1973, according to the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling.

Powell was alleged to have taken out the loan from his client and then "made sporadic and minimal monthly payments," Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady said in the court's ruling against Powell. "The administrator eventually filed a breach-of-contract action. Powell settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $25,000 to the administrator in monthly installments of $1,500."

Powell's earlier discipline in Iowa includes a seven-month suspension in 2013, a six month-suspension in 2007, and private admonitions in 2010 and 2005, according to the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling.

In addition to the harm Powell was alleged to have done to his client, the "pattern of unethical conduct by Powell over the last decade raises a serious and fundamental question of his fitness to practice law," Cady wrote in the Iowa court's ruling. "We begin to lose hope that lawyers will ever understand and meet their ethical obligations when they repeatedly engage in unethical conduct."

Powell's previous discipline history in Iowa "justifies a sanction greater than" the six months' suspension recommended by the court's grievance commission, "but not revocation," Cady wrote.

Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins disagreed. In his dissent in Powell's case, Wiggins said "any sanction short of revocation" was not enough and that Powell should lose his license. 

"Within nine months of his most-recent reinstatement, Powell once again flouted our rules of professional conduct," Wiggins wrote in his dissent. "He appears not to have learned anything from his prior disciplinary proceedings."

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