Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Lawrence attorney suspended for 3 years over allegations of mishandling retirement account

December 1, 2017


— A Lawrence attorney has been suspended from practice for three years following a complaint that she mishandled an employee's retirement account.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday suspended Brandy Sutton, of the Pendleton and Sutton law firm, 1031 Vermont St.

According to the court's decision, Sutton offered her employees a Simple IRA retirement account as a benefit and agreed to match their contributions into those accounts, up to 3 percent of their salary.

As detailed in the court's decision:

In May 2015, an associate attorney in the firm, identified only by her initials, L.M., resigned to go work for another firm. At that time, she reviewed her account and discovered that Sutton had not made consistent deposits into her account.

L.M. wrote to Sutton claiming that her retirement account was short by an estimated $9,000, and she said she would settle the matter if Sutton paid her $20,000. When Sutton did not respond to that letter after more than three weeks, L.M. filed a complaint with the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator, an agency within the judicial branch that investigates complaints against attorneys in Kansas.

Sutton responded to the complaint in writing to the disciplinary administrator, saying the firm had been having financial difficulties as a result of lawsuits filed against two former associate attorneys for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and for violating court orders in bankruptcy cases.

But she went on to say that she had secured a line of credit to settle the firm's debts, including the money it owed to employee retirement accounts.

Then, four days later, she sent L.M. a lengthy email in which she said she had been suffering from mental health issues and blamed L.M. for "gross negligence" in the handling of a bankruptcy case.

She also claimed that the retirement account was short only about $4,300, and she called the demand for $20,000 "absurd."

At a hearing, the disciplinary administrator's office recommended Sutton be suspended indefinitely. But the hearing panel, noting that Sutton had made L.M. and the other employees whole for the shortages in their retirement funds, recommended only that she be placed on supervised probation for three years

In its order Friday, a majority on the Supreme Court struck a compromise, ordering a three-year suspension, but allowing Sutton to apply for probation after six months if she submits a 30-month probation plan that is approved by the disciplinary administrator. It also said a minority on the court would have adopted the hearing panel's recommendation for probation.

The decision did not indicate which justices were part of the majority and which were the minority, but it did note that Justice Carol Beier did not participate.


Billy Blanks 3 months, 2 weeks ago

She is the reason attorneys are looked down on by most. If they cared about the reputation of attorneys, she would have been disbarred long ago. She is also an embarrassment to the KU Law school.

Ken Farrar 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Ignorant comments above... I guess I learned a lesson as a fellow small business owner. DON"T offer matching retirement accounts...employees can take their income and invest on their own. Why employers contribute to retirement accounts, is a joke. Take your income and invest in your own future. Like most Liberals, the world owes you something.

It's easy to go through tough times (employee or EMPLOYEE). She made it right and reimbursed the accounts by going out and borrowing money. Did the right thing, and went into more debt to do it! And let me ask you, Do either of you have a freaking clue on the agenda of the former employee that filed the complaint? If you did, you wouldn't post...

Bob Summers 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm putting my money in toilet paper and cigarettes for bartering purposes.

Billy Blanks 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I have absolutely no sympathy for her. She caused all her own financial issues with unprofessional or illegal actions. We should not celebrate her paying her obligations, especially with a proverbial gun to her head. As far as the former employee's motive is concerned, she obviously wanted to receive the money she was promised. Brandy Sutton has a long history of these types of actions her benefit of the doubt has long expired.

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