In the Matter of OTTO E. MYRLAND, a Member of the State Bar
Original proceeding under the State Bar Act and upon record transmitted to the Supreme Court by the Board of Governors of the State Bar.
No appearance for Board of Governors.
Mr. Otto E. Myrland, Respondent, in propria persona, and by Mr. E. G. Frazier, his Attorney.
Mr. Bob Barber and twenty-seven other members of the Bar, Amici Curiae.
[54 Ariz. 285] PER CURIAM.
This is a proceeding which involves the conduct of a member of the state bar, to wit, Mr. Otto E. Myrland, of Tucson, Arizona.
The charge is that his fee for making an uncontested collection against the estate of a deceased person was excessive and unconscionable under the circumstances.
The local administrative committee of the state bar at Tucson investigated the charge and recommended that Mr. Myrland "be disciplined by disbarment or suspension." This recommendation and the evidence supporting it were then forwarded to the board of governors of the state bar at Phoenix. Thereafter this board held a session and heard respondent's defense, or story, in explanation or justification of the size of the fee. The board of governors has filed the records made before the two bodies with this court for such action as seems meet and just.
The salient facts are that on March 8, 1937, a firm of lawyers composed of Dave F., Donald F. and Russell Smith, members of the Los Angeles, California bar, sent to Mr. Kirk T. Moore, a member of the bar of this state, an original and copy of a creditor's claim by the United States Tire Dealers Mutual Corporation for $1,233.26 against the estate of Carl Hero, for collection. Mr. Moore was in poor health at the time, and instead of returning the claim turned it over to Myrland to handle. In their letter of transmittal to Moore they said:
"... We will appreciate it if you will inform us what your fee will be for handling this matter with the assumption that the claim will not be contested, since we know it is impossible at this time to fix a fee should a contest arise and we do not anticipate such event. [54 Ariz. 286] In fixing your fee you need not expect to send us the usual forwarder's fee, because you will bill this office and we will in turn bill our client, a single bill covering both your service and our own."
On March 17, 1937, respondent wrote the Los Angeles attorneys that due to an illness Mr. Moore, who had offices with him, had asked him to take care of the matter. Thereafter respondent presented the claim to the administrator of the estate, by whom it was approved and it was also approved by the court. Respondent obtained a statement of the assets and liabilities of the estate and sent such statement to the Los Angeles attorneys. This statement showed that the estate was solvent and would be able to pay 100 per cent. of its liabilities. The estate's assets being in excess of five thousand dollars, the law allowed ten months from the first publication of notice to creditors for the filing of claims against the estate and, for that reason, although the claim had been allowed and approved, it was not paid before the expiration of ten months.
On or about May 3, 1938, the administrator paid the claim to the respondent in full, and on the 3d day of May he remitted to the attorneys in Los Angeles a cashier's check for $824.51 payable to the creditor and stated in his letter of transmittal that his fee was one-third of the claim, ...