Moving from suspension to disbarment

/ 24.Jul, 2013

On June 19, 2013, William E. Buchko of Beaver County was disbarred retroactive to August 2, 2011.  On November 8, 2010, Mr. Buchko entered a plea of guilty to an indictment which charged him with bank fraud.  Mr. Buchko was sentenced to imprisonment of one day and supervised release for three years.  Mr. Buchko aided a borrower in attempting to obtain a loan on certain real estate by use of false information to be given to the lender.  The false documents consisted of a settlement sheet and a deed which falsely showed the borrower had already purchased the property.  Mr. Buchko was temporarily suspended as a result of the criminal conviction.

Mr. Buchko was subsequently accused of commingling funds and misappropriating $5,520 of client funds.  On January 13, 2012, Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a Petition for Discipline against Mr. Buchko. The Petition charged Mr. Buchko with violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement arising out of his criminal conviction of bank fraud.  Mr. Buchko did not answer the Petition for Discipline, and the allegations set forth in the Petition were deemed admitted pursuant to Rule 208(b)(3), Pa.R.D.E.

A disciplinary hearing was held on June 11, 2012, and Mr. Buchko did not appear.   At approximately 8:45 a.m. on June 11, 2012, Mr. Buchko left a message on the voice mail of Disciplinary Counsel, stating he would not be at the hearing because his granddaughter was having surgery and he needed to be with his family.  Disciplinary Counsel spoke to Mr. Buchko later that morning, prior to the scheduled start of the hearing.  Mr. Buchko informed Disciplinary Counsel he was aware of the hearing and made the choice not to appear.  Mr. Buchko did not request a continuance.  The Hearing Committee gave Mr. Buchko 15 days to submit evidence, and Mr. Buchko did not submit any evidence.

The Board noted similar criminal convictions had led to suspensions of five years.  The Hearing Committee recommended a suspension of five years, to which the Disciplinary Counsel took exception.  The Board agreed a bank fraud conviction and misappropriation of client funds in tandem with Mr. Buchko’s failure to participate in the disciplinary proceedings warranted disbarment.

The real lesson in this case is that not participating in disciplinary proceedings can significantly increase the discipline imposed.  When faced with disciplinary proceedings, the ostrich approach does not work.

Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire