The Supreme Court of Nebraska has suspended an attorney for an indefinite term after finding that she disclosed confidential information about a client. In re Donna J. Tonderum, a Nebraska attorney informed a prosecutor that she believed one of her former clients was guilty of a crime.
The client had hired the attorney to defend him in a criminal matter. The attorney appeared in court on behalf of her client one time and was then replaced by another lawyer. The attorney subsequently made a phone call to the prosecutor handling the case and informed him that she “knew” that the client was guilty. She also provided him with contact information for several witnesses, and discussed the client’s potential defense. The prosecutor then informed the Nebraska Office of the Counsel for Discipline (“NOCD”) and the client’s new attorney of the telephone call, and recused himself from the case.
The NOCD filed formal charges against the attorney with the Nebraska Supreme Court, but the attorney failed to respond. The Court found that the attorney violated the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct § 3-501.6, when she divulged confidential client communications. While the Court viewed the attorney’s conduct as a serious ethical violation, it could not make a determination about her fitness to continue practicing law because she did not respond to the allegations. Therefore, the Court entered an indefinite suspension, with a minimum suspension of three years.
Decision: In re Donna J. Tonderum