The Kansas Supreme Court has disbarred a Lawrence attorney who admitted taking $15,000 from a client who thought the money would go toward witness fees.
An order signed Monday by Chief Justice Richard Holmes and made public today disbarred Stephen B. Rhudy, who voluntarily surrendered his license to practice law on Feb. 20.
In its disbarment order, the court said Rhudy accepted from a client $15,000 which was supposed to pay for expert witnesses to testify in a trial, but that Rhudy used the money for himself rather than paying the witnesses.
The fees were incurred during a Sherman County case in which Rhudy's client, Herbert Pizel, alleged two attorneys mishandled a trust fund set up by Pizel's uncle and listing Pizel as a beneficiary. Pizel brought the suit along with several other nephews of the uncle, Charles Pizel, a Sherman County man who died in April 1979.
Pizel claimed that he lost money because of malpractice by the attorneys, Eugene G. Zuspann and a partner in his firm, B.E. Whalen.
During the course of the trial, Rhudy hired several expert witnesses, who then billed Pizel through Rhudy.
Most of the bills were submitted by Robert Groff, a Topeka attorney, who charged Pizel $10,000 for his services.
After the trial court case ended, the case was heard by the Supreme Court. The court ordered a retrial in a decision handed down last July.
Rhudy then referred his client to another attorney, Jerry Palmer of Topeka.
On Feb. 19, the court received a letter from Palmer stating that Rhudy had admitted to using the witness fees for himself. The letter also stated that Rhudy planned to voluntarily surrender his license to practice law.