Eviction lawyer used client trusts to pay mortgage

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An Isle of Whidby man who practiced law in Everett was disqualified from his attorney for withdrawing thousands of dollars from a client’s trust account to pay off a mortgage and showing indifference in paying money, among other financial misconduct.

Brian Reed, 45, from Freeland, has primarily represented homeowners in eviction and other landlord-tenant matters. He worked as an attorney in Washington state for nearly 20 years, and in 2020 spoke out openly about his opposition to the statewide eviction moratorium.

From 2015 to 2018, Reed violated the State’s Code of Professional Conduct by withdrawing money from his client’s trust account at Chase Bank for personal use, according to his termination notice released last week by the state bar. A lawyer must maintain a trust account when holding money on behalf of clients or third parties to ensure that the trust is separate from the lawyer’s personal finances.

During those three years, Reed has withdrawn more money from the client’s trust account than he deposited on it. At the bar, it was revealed that he did not keep the records required for the account, and when he did, they were often incorrect.

On July 2, 2018, Reed attempted to transfer $ 300 from a client’s trust account to his business account. The transfer was canceled by the bank due to insufficient funds. State law requires attorneys to report any overdrafts in client trusts and give explanations to the Washington State Bar. I didn’t read it.

Instead, he started depositing his own money to fund the account. He didn’t do it fast enough, and as of December 11, 2018, the account had less than $ 12,000.

On July 12, 2018, the State Bar Association’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel sent a letter requesting an explanation for the overdraft, a statement of how it was corrected, and entries for the client’s trust account dated two months earlier.

Reed requested an extension until August 31, 2018. He missed the deadline.

In October 2018, Reed was served with a subpoena by the State Bar, demanding that he appear to testify. That same month, Reed hired another lawyer to recover the client’s trust account records.

On his testimony, Reed reportedly told disciplinary staff that he felt “burdened by the demands of (his) legal practice and family life,” and that his situation had caused financial irregularities.

He reportedly added that he was under stress, which was exacerbated by family problems and financial difficulties, according to court documents.

The Disciplinary Board of the State Bar noted aggravating circumstances in the decision to deprive Reed of the Bar: systematic misconduct, multiple offenses and “indifference” to the payment of restitution.

Reed had to pay clients thousands of dollars, although the exact amount of the outstanding debt was kept confidential on disciplinary records.

The lawyer had no previous information about the misconduct.

Before being stripped of his status, Reed’s lawyer publicly opposed the state’s eviction moratorium, spoke to reporters from KING 5, and posted messages on his law firm’s Facebook page.

According to him, the moratorium turned the landlords into “economic hostages.”

On Reed’s website, the information page said, “Brian appreciates and respects that for landlords, owning a rental property is part of their American Dream. Brian is proud to be a knowledgeable and accessible resource for property owners and managers looking to protect and maximize their bottom line. ”

Court records show that Reed was still practicing law last month, weeks before he was stripped of his lawyer status in late June.

In a phone call, Reed declined to comment on the reporter. His law firm’s website was shut down shortly after the board sent out a notice stating that he could no longer practice.


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