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Misconduct complaint filed against two Helena attorneys

The Montana Supreme Court

The Montana Supreme Court listens to oral arguments in December 2018 in a legal disagreement between Gov. Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox about the governor circumventing the Montana State Board of Land Commissioners to finalize an eastern Montana conservation easement.

A father and daughter who practice as attorneys in Helena have been accused of professional misconduct for allegedly misappropriating and mishandling trust account funds owed to clients and third parties, according to documents filed with the Montana Supreme Court.

Meghan Doud and her father, Timothy McKeon, have 21 days to respond to the administrative complaint. There will be a hearing on the allegations before the Adjudicatory Panel of the Commission on Practice of the state Supreme Court, which will pass along its findings to the Supreme Court, according to documents filed Feb. 19 by Pam Bucy, chief disciplinary counsel for the state. The panel can recommend disciplinary action.

The state claims the respondents owe clients and third parties nearly $1.35 million.

McKeon and Doud did not return a call seeking comment.

McKeon faces six counts and Doud faces seven, according to the complaint. Doud’s additional count claims she failed to exercise independent professional judgment and further research the firm’s fee structure and collection of unreasonable fees. The other counts involve allegations of misappropriation and mishandling of trust account funds, co-mingling attorney funds with client funds, unreasonable fees and costs, fee agreements, trust account maintenance and communication, alleging they failed to keep clients apprised of the status of their case. 

McKeon and Doud practice law as McKeon Doud, P.C., in either Helena or Kalispell and specialize in personal injury, medical malpractice and workers’ compensation cases, the charging documents state.

From Jan. 1, 2016, to March 31, 2020, the firm consistently transferred funds from its trust accounts at First Interstate and Glacier banks, Bucy said. Doud was the sole signator and McKeon could make electronic transfers.

Bucy said they had failed to pay some clients and third parties nearly $615,000 as of March 31, 2020, and the trust account balance was $45,000 on that day. Clients were charged about $740,000 for time spent by firm employees on their cases as a cost or firm expense, contrary to contingency fees agreements.

The amount owed to clients was $1.35 million as of March 31, 2020, Bucy said.

“McKeon or Doud, at McKeon’s direction, repeatedly paid the firm or transferred funds not belong to the firm from the trust accounts to the operating account, other firm accounts, or McKeon’s and Doud’s personal accounts,” Bucy stated in the complaint. She said some of the funds were not yet earned and others belonged to clients or third parties.

“Those transfers and payments repeatedly depleted the trust account of funds belonging to clients or others,” Bucy wrote.

She said more than one grievance had been filed against the attorneys. She said punishment could result in a suspension of their license or disbarment. 

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is part of a lawyer regulation system established by the Montana Supreme Court. According to its website, it investigates and prosecutes complaints against lawyers in matters involving possible misconduct, disability, disciplinary and disability proceedings, overdraft notifications of escrow accounts and petitions for reinstatement.

Bucy said they paid some clients nearly $33,000 from the trust account, when the clients had no funds in the account and belonged to others. Bucy also alleged they failed to pay some clients funds to which they were entitled.

Bucy said several clients were charged nearly $740,000 for staff time, medical/nurse consulting and paralegal services, in which there were no invoices from outside parties with whom the firm had contracted, but were employees of their law firm.

“If Doud and McKeon disgorged the approximate $740,000 charged for staff time and paid the clients and third parties approximate $615,000 still owed them as of March 31, 2020, the amount Doud and McKeon owed the clients and third parties total approximately $1.35 million,” Bucy wrote.

She alleged that McKeon negotiated liens and/or medical debt from clients and charged an additional contingency fee in disregard of their contingency fee agreement.

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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