The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday disbarred former Utah Attorney General Phil L. Hansen after allegations that he neglected clients.
Hansen, 68, in March voluntarily gave up his license to practice law in Utah without admitting guilt to neglect alleged by various clients.But because of that, the U.S. Supreme Court in turn suspended Hansen on April 20 and ordered him to show cause why it should not disbar him. Hansen never replied.
So the court ordered Monday that he "be disbarred from the practice of law in this court and that his name be stricken from the roll of attorneys admitted to practice before the bar of this court."
The Utah State Bar in March issued a press release saying Hansen had voluntarily surrendered his license in Utah to resolve several complaints of misconduct filed between 1988 and 1991.
It added, "Mr. Hansen is bedridden and on 24-hour oxygen support necessitated by cardiopulmonary failure. Mr. Hansen's deteriorating health has made it virtually impossible for him to respond to the allegations of misconduct and work with his counsel to prepare his defense.
"Therefore, there has not been any adjudication on the merits of these complaints and they remain unproven."
But the agreement prohibited Hansen - a Democrat who was attorney general from 1965 to 1969 - from practicing law for five years. Bar counsel Stephen A. Trost added that "many felt (the alleged neglect) resulted from his illness."
Hansen was chided by the Utah Court of Appeals in 1989 when it overturned the theft conviction of one of his clients saying the man did not receive a fair trial because Hansen botched the case and was unprepared.
The man was accused of stealing funds from an account that should have been used exclusively for funds held in escrow for real estate closings.
The court said Hansen did not obtain bank records until two days before trial and then got only deposit records - not monthly statements, checks, disbursements or credit and debit memos - and failed to get any records for one of the months when one of the alleged thefts occurred. The court said Hansen also failed to prepare the man and his wife to testify.
Also in 1989, Hansen had a widely publicized flap with the Internal Revenue Service - which raided his home and seized personal belongings for alleged non-payment of $41,253 in unpaid taxes.
On the bright side for Hansen during that period, however, was that he won a surprising reduced negligent homicide verdict for the youth accused of killing the son of actress Beverly Todd.
Hansen was often controversial when he was attorney general. He was sued several times while in office for failure to pay bills.
He was also accused of taking undue advantage of a state program to buy cars for its elected officials by ordering a Jaguar. He defended the action, saying Jaguars have good resale value and that he was saving the state money.