Bad Lawyers

Margo E. Burson Pleads the Fifth during Disciplinary Hearing
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Summary: Attorney Margo Burson had two complaints filed against her alleging missing money from the accounts of two elderly women.

A Topeka, Kansas lawyer pleaded the fifth during a formal complaint hearing to avoid incriminating herself. Margo E. Burson was accused of taking over $183,000 from two elderly women she was supposed to be helping.

  
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At the disciplinary hearing before the Kansas Supreme Court, Burson was asked what authority she had to move money from a client’s account without judge’s approval. Her response to the Justice asking her the question was, “At this time, I decline to answer.”

Justice Dan Biles replied, “I’m sorry. What?”

She reiterated, “I decline to answer.”

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Biles asked, “Are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

Burson said, “Yes.”



The issue of the missing money then ended.

A defendant or witness will often “plead the Fifth” so that they don’t have to testify about anything that may be self-incriminating. This is unusual for an attorney to do though. Disciplinary administrator Stan Hazlett doesn’t ever recall such an instance by an attorney during a disciplinary hearing.

Nearly a month after the hearing ended, Burson voluntarily surrendered her Kansas law license. The Kansas Supreme Court disbarred her the day after on July 19. There were two complaints against her by the Office of Disciplinary Administrator, which is tasked with policing lawyers in Kansas. The complaints allege a loss of over $183,000.

The one complaint is from the family of Dorothy May Harvey, an 89-year-old woman who died in 2011. The other complaint is from a 96-year-old woman living in a senior care facility. Harvey’s family members say they feel betrayed. They considered Burson a friend that was extremely helpful leading up to Harvey’s death. They report that Harvey gave them the initial accounting within days of her death. A brother-in-law of Harvey, Don Peters, said, “We trusted her implicitly.” The obituary for Harvey even mentioned Burson in it: “The family expresses their deep appreciation to Margo Burson, who lovingly managed her health care affairs.”

Five years went by before the family received the final accounting for Harvey’s estate. The year after she died, the family was suspicious but didn’t register an official complaint with the disciplinary administrator’s office until 2016. Peters said, “In essence, she violated our trust, very seriously. We feel betrayed, not so much for the money lost but for the time (lost).”

Documents show that there were ten internet transfers made from Harvey’s estate account to Burson’s operating account for a total of $66,000. They started in August 2016 and ended just a few months later in January 2017. The amounts of the transfers ranged from $1,000 to $19,000.

In the other complaint, Burson was the power of attorney for a resident living at the Brewster Place since 2005. The woman’s account had not been paid for years putting her balance at over $117,249. The complaint came from someone at Brewster Place that was reviewing their accounts. The records showed that Brewster Place had asked Burson through emails and letters numerous times to fill out and file a Medicaid application for the resident in 2014. After three years, Burson still had not filled out the application. The resident is still living at the facility since “Brewster Place does not wish to evict” the woman.

The discipline lined up with Burson’s retirement. She said, “It was a surrender of the license rather than a knock down, drag out (disciplinary hearing). Some of us are worn out and ready to do something else.” An evidentiary hearing had been scheduled for August but was canceled when she surrendered her license. She claims health issues were the reason for her retirement, saying she developed arthritis in the 80’s.

Would you like to see Burson face criminal charges? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys caught stealing from the elderly, read these articles:

Photo: flickr.com

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