JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Sedalia attorney R. Scott Gardner has received a fully deferred suspension and been placed on probation following a Jan. 15 Missouri Supreme Court disciplinary proceeding over allegations of illegally obtained personal representative fees.
The Supreme Court imposed a fully stayed indefinite suspension with no leave to reapply for six months and placed Gardner on a year of conditional probation, according to the 24-page disciplinary proceeding. Terms and conditions of Gardner's probation include submitting to a monitor and that he pay $1,500 to the advisory committee and all costs in the matter.
Gardner was admitted to the bar in Missouri in 1983 and since 1988 has "maintained a significant probate practice," including acting as a personal representative "on only a few occasions," the high court's disciplinary proceeding said.
Gardner's stayed suspension and probation stem from allegations over his fees for acting as personal representative in an estate for which he was hired in 2014 and which still is pending Pettis County Circuit Court's probate division.
Gardner's alleged misconduct would have violated a state law that requires payment of personal representative fees before final settlement is approved by a court's probate division, according to the disciplinary proceeding.
"Here the probate division approved early payment of only part of R. Scott Gardner's personal representative fee request and specifically directed the remainder of his fees would be paid only at final settlement," the disciplinary proceeding said. "Mr. Gardner nonetheless paid himself most of the remainder of his fees prior to final settlement, in violation of the circuit court’s order and the relevant statute."
The violation "was made worse" when Gardner didn't inform the court of the pre-final settlement payment of the fees to himself, the proceeding said. "His conduct was knowing and, considered without regard to mitigating factors, would merit suspension. That he was actually entitled to the fees, there was no harm to the estate and he had no dishonest motive but rather incorrectly believed local practice would permit his conduct despite the rule and statute do not lessen the violations but serve to mitigate the discipline imposed."
Gardner's "remorse, good character and lack of significant disciplinary history" was also considered in mitigation, the proceeding said.