St. Louis POST DISPATCH
ST. LOUIS, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1935.
TWO ATTORNEYS SAID TO ADMIT COLLUSION
WHY 4 LAWYERS QUIT PROFESSION AT WARRENSBURG
Four Lawyers Who Quit Profession Under Bar's Charges of Misconduct
Farmer, 81, Paid Out $44,000 (in 2016 dollars this is worth about $750,000), of Which It Is Alleged Alleged Woman Claimants Received Little.
Supreme Court Accepts Surrender of Licenses by Four Under Inquiry by Bar Association.
By a Staff Correspondent of the Post-Dispatch.
JEFFERSON CITY, Dec. 10. The disbarring of four leading lawyers of Warrensburg, Mo., as a result of the State Bar Committee's investigation of an aged and wealthy farmer's payments of sums totaling $44,000 to stop threatened charges that he had mistreated women, was completed by the Supreme Supreme Court today with its acceptance of the voluntary proffers of the lawyers to surrender their licenses. The lawyers were: Harry J. Salsbury and Roy A. Jones, former Prosecuting Attorneys of Johnson County of which "Warrensburg is the county seat, and Max D. Aber and William E. Suddath.
Barnett Gives Up License.
The Supreme Court also accepted surrender of the license of Orville M. Barnett, former attorney for the University of Missouri, who is under under indictment in Boone County for embezzlement.
It is alleged he misappropriated to his own use funds obtained from the sale of lands belonging to the College of Agriculture. This extraordinary case of disciplinary disciplinary action against lawyers for unprofessional conduct, under the State Supreme Court's new rules for supervision of the bar, became public yesterday with the filing in Supreme Court of the formal petitions of the four Warrensburg lawyers and the Columbia lawyer, asking that they be allowed to surrender their licenses. The petitions were filed by Boyue G. Clark of Columbia, general chairman of the State Bar committee, and were accompanied by recommendations recommendations of the Advisory Committee of the Bar Committee that they be accepted.
Procedure Is Questioned.
When the court appeared after a conference of more than an hour in chambers. Judge Charles T. Hays questioned the propriety of the procedure, suggesting that the Bar Committee was "out of its orbit" in making a recommendation that the offer of surrender of licenses be accepted. He asked Clark whether it would not be more proper to proceed proceed under the rules with the charges instead of coming in at the middle of the procedure with a recommendation recommendation that surrenders be accepted. Clark replied that the resignations "would be equivalent of revocation revocation of licenses and disbarment." He said the resignations were offered offered during the investigation and that if they were accepted by the court he saw no reason to carry the case further. The procedure was referred to by him as a "short cut to disbarment." "We have no idea of white-washing anyone, Clark said. If this procedure is not proper, we win, proceed the other way and complete our investigation."
Proposal by Suddath Friend
Inghram D. Hook of Kansas City, one of six lawyers who said they appeared as friends of Suddath rather than counsel, asked what the status of the lawyers who surrendered their licenses would be. He requested that the Supreme Court retain jurisdiction by accepting the surrenders with reservations so that it might take up the question of reinstatement later. Judge George Robb Ellison said that this could not be done since there were no facts before the court and that acceptance would constitute final disposition of the cases. "This is not the proper time nor place to talk about pleas for leniency. Judge Vinson said. there are only two issues: whether these men have a right to surrender their licenses while under investigation and the effect of such surrender on their future status. Clark again took the floor to say there were "no strings attached to the surrenders." Had there been, he said, the Bar Committee would not have recommended their acceptance.
Plea by James A. Potter.
James A. Potter, Jefferson City lawyer, who appeared as a friend of Suddath, suggested that the court have the Bar Committee supply it with a statement of facts but no such action was taken. Potter said the Warrensburg lawyers were "men with families and probably wanted to avoid publicity by, coming in with- with surrender in the hope of future reinstatement."
|WILLIAM E. SUDDATH and MAX D. ABER; below: HARRY J. SALSBURY and ROY A. JONES all of Warrensburg.|
"When these licenses are surrendered," Judge Ernest S. Gantt broke in, "that is the end of it, and there is nothing left of which this court may keep jurisdiction. If we retain jurisdiction, we then haven't accepted the resignations." Other lawyers appearing as friends of Suddath were Prosecuting Attorney W. W. Graves, Paul Buzard and Edgar Shook, all of Kansas City, and Lee Montgomery of Sedalia. Secret Investigation
It was learned that the bar advisory advisory committee held secret investigating sessions in Warrensburg and that the four lawyers, when confronted with evidence obtained by investigators, made admissions and agreed to give up their professional professional status rather than submit to trial on charges that the committee was prepared to file. None of the evidence was made public by the bar committee, but it was learned that the questioned conduct of all four lawyers relates to payments by John Dawson, 81-year-old farmer, in connection with alleged affairs with women, extending extending over a period of several years.
The Post-Dispatch correspondent learned that in one case under investigation, Attorney Jones, who is 34 years old, represented a woman who asserted Dawson had committed committed an offense against her and collected collected $1000 in settlement through Dawson's attorney, who was Suddath. From the $1000 Jones deducted deducted his own fee. The committee learned that Suddath actually collected collected $7500 from his client, making unexplained disposition of $6500. Some persons other than lawyers were said to have shared in it.
In another case in which Dawson paid $5000 in $1 bills to settle a claim, Salsbury represented the claimant and Aber represented Dawson. This was a claim by Jesse Ward on behalf of his 15-year-old daughter. It came to light earlier this year, when Ward, through another another attorney, filed suit against Salsbury and Mason M. Lane, former former Sheriff, alleging they had collected the $5000 for him, but paid him only $500 and had failed to account for the rest. It is understood that the admissions of Salsbury and Aber concerning their co-operation in this case were such that they readily consented consented to the surrender of their licenses.
Taking From Both Sides
One man close to the investigation investigation remarked to the Post-Dispatch correspondent that not until he learned the facts in these cases had he ever had actual knowledge of a lawyer taking money from both sides to a controversy. There were rumors of numerous other payments by Dawson to settle claims, with the claimants receiving very little, but it was learned that details of these were not gone into by the committee, as no further evidence evidence was needed. The first session of the bar committee committee at Warrensburg was held Sept. 17, when several witnesses appeared and testified under oath, as required by the new rules of the Supreme Court. It was learned that the investigators branded some of the statements made at that time as perjury.
On the evening of Nov. 5, the Bar Advisory Committee met at Sedalia and the Lawyers under inquiry were before it for almost the entire night. Other attorneys who were friends of the Warrensburg lawyers also were present. The following day the four Warrensburg lawyers agreed to surrender their licenses. This case first came to the attention attention of the bar committee as a result result of a visit by one of its investigators investigators to Warrensburg on another matter. A Johnson County grand jury had made an investigation of rumors of the demands made on Dawson for money and voted an indictment against Salsbury on an extortion charge, but the indictment was dropped.
Careers of Principals.
Salsbury, about 50 years old, served two terms as Prosecuting Attorney from Jan. 1, 1931, to Jan. 1, 1935. His predecessor, serving one term, was Jones, who is a graduate of Washington University and has practiced at Warrensburg about eight years. It is understood that Jones was not shown by any evidence in the hands of the bar committee to have received anything out of the payments made by Dawson other than a proper fee for representing a client client in good faith, but that he later learned of the imposition on Dawson by others and did not inform the authorities. Suddath, who is 52 years old, is a member of an old and respected Johnson County family. In the University of "Missouri law school, he was a classmate of Chairman Clark of the bar committee, and Suddath formerly was chairman of the bar committee of the seventeenth seventeenth judicial circuit. Aber also was a member of the judicial circuit bar committee until until the investigation was started. He is 68 years old and has practiced law since 1894.
Gayles R. Pines, a young lawyer who recently represented Daw son, is said to have assisted in the inquiry. He recently advised Dawson to fight a large claim that had been submitted against him in be half of a woman. One phase of the investigation concerned efforts that are said to have been made to keep witnesses, and particularly Jesse Ward, from testifying before the grand jury. There was said to have been some difficulty, also, in obtaining the attendance of witnesses before the bar committee, which has full power to subpoena witnesses and compel their attendance. Since it was appointed in the latter part of 1934, the State bar committee has caused disbarment proceedings to be instituted against 23 lawyers. Among these are five who voluntarily surrendered their licenses, the four from Warrensburg, and Barrett, former University of Missouri attorney, whose voluntary surrender also was filed yesterday. Fourteen of the cases Instituted by the committee are in various stages of prosecution, and there has been one disbarment, one suspension, suspension, one acquittal and the five surrenders. The committee is said to have 17 other cases under consideration in various cities of the state.
The State Bar Committee consists of the general chairman and local committees of four lawyers in each of the judicial circuits. The advisory committee consists of the chairman and five members selected selected from the various judicial circuit committees. Advisory committee members assisting General Chairman Clark are James A. Parks of Clinton; Grover C. Sibley of St. Louis; J. C. Grover of Kansas City; J. D. James of Joplin, and Morris Osborn of Shelbyville.
Prosecutor Uncertain Whether He Will Reopen Dawson Inquiry
Prosecuting Attorney George Wallace Cooper of Johnson County told the Post-Dispatch by telephone yesterday yesterday he could not say at this time whether his office would reopen its inquiry begun last summer into circumstances circumstances attending the Dawson litigation. The grand jury which investigated the matter last summer, he said, found some evidence pointing to a conspiracy to defraud, but found itself blocked by the statute of limitations. Members of the grand jury, which has since been dissolved, will meet informally at Warrensburg Thursday to discuss the question as citizens and not as an official group, Cooper, said.
FARMER SAYS HE PAID $40,000 TO STOP SUITS
John Dawson, 81, Confirms Disclosures in Inquiry Into Lawyers' Conduct.
Special to the Post-Dispatch.
WARRENSBURG, Mo.. Dec. 10. John Dawson, wealthy 81-year-old farmer, said last night that he had paid more than $40,000 to various persons in the last two or three years to avoid or settle suits instituted by women. The payments were disclosed after four Warrensburg lawyers, Harry J. Salsbury, Max D. Aber, Roy A. Jones and William E. Suddath had returned their licenses to the Supreme Court after an investigation investigation by the Missouri Bar Association. The attorneys represented Dawson or the plaintiffs in the various cases. Dawson said he paid $7500 in the first case but did not remember the amounts in the other cases. "I tried to forget the money paid on claims," Dawson said. "If I had let myself think about them I would have been crazy. I put them clear out of my mind."
It is reliably reported Dawson paid $44,000 in amounts ranging from $1900 to $7500. Dawson, in spite of his age, may be found on one of his farms daily, doing chores, directing the feeding of 160 head of Shorthorn cattle and supervising more than 800 acres of land. His wife died a year ago and he lives in a large house across the street from the Warrensburg State Teachers' College. The four attorneys were out of town and could not be reached. day to discuss the question as citizens citizens and not as an official group, Cooper said.
Jefferson City Post-Tribune, 30 Jul 1937, Fri, Page 6
LICENSES RESTORED BY COURT
No Opinion Accompanies Order By Hays
Licenses of four Warrensburg lawyers, which were surrendered in December, 1935, as the state bar committee prepared to investigate the attorney's activities, were ordered ordered restored today by the state supreme court en banc.
The lawyers are Max D. Aber, Roy A. Jones, Harry J. Salsbury, and William E. Suddath.
No written opinion was handed down with the order. Charles T Hays, chief justice of the supreme court, said the bar committee recommended recommended in general the license be restored.
Since resigning as members of the bar, each of the four had sought reinstatement, contending they had not misconducted themselves professionally. The bar committee, which is headed by Boyle G. Clark of Columbia, started its inquiry after special grand jury investigated suits in which the four lawyers allegedly were involved and in which John Dawson, wealthy Johnson county farmer, said he paid $40,000 in settlements and fees.
The grand jury, in its report said it "found instances of breach of contract and questionable ethics."
*Max Aber later became Judge of the Probate Court in the 1940's
Judge Max Aber died June 14, 1961. - Dr. O. H. Damron attested.
Harry Jefferson Salsbury died Nov. 20, 1968
William E. Suddath died in 1962
Roy A. Jones, Prosecuting Attorney, died in 1974