As reported today in the Courier Journal, Louisville attorney Louis Smith has been accused of stealing money from his clients. Prosecutors allege that Smith, an estate attorney, began stealing from clients, including Emily Strange, around 1999.
Although Smith pleaded "non-guilty" to the charges, his criminal lawyer Steve Romines has filed court papers indicated they may defend Smith by asserting his diagnosis of dementia.
On March 20, the Kentucky Supreme Court temporarily suspended Smith from the practice of law for his dealings with Ms. Strange's $1 million estate and stated, "In less than ten years, all of the money seems to have disappeared , and the client is on Medicaid. Even when the circuit court ordered an accounting by the Respondent, he refused to disclose the whereabouts of the assets and the purpose of their transfer. The circuit court has threatened sanctions, including incarceration on the contempt, until such disclosures are made. We have no doubt that the circuit court has quite a task in seeking to trace the assets from the Respondent."
It has been my experience that lawyers that steal money from clients don't usually have any insurance or assets. This necessarily means that it will be very difficult for any of his victims to recovery in a legal malpractice lawsuit; however, that doesn't mean his victims should sit idly by, they should hire an attorney to investigate if insurance is available and what, if any, assets are available to reimburse the clients and their estates.