In responding to a complaint from the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board, the commission is recommending that the court revoke the law license of 44-year-old Sandra Suarez-Quilty.
According to the commission, Suarez-Quilty lied to a judge about her representation of a client; practiced law after her license was suspended in the wake of a second-offense conviction for drunken driving; used a client’s trust fund to pay for expenses unrelated to the client’s case; was arrested a fourth time for drunken driving while the charges tied to her third such arrest were still pending in the courts; and charged $5,000 to a client’s credit card for no legitimate reason.
The five-member commission noted that in Iowa, the conversion of client funds to one’s personal use is enough to support revocation of a law license, making it unnecessary for the panel to consider the other alleged ethical violations. Suarez-Quilty converted money from two of her clients to her own use, the commission stated.
“She admits to having committed theft,” the panel wrote in its recommendation. “The $5,000 charge on the credit card is very serious” and Suarez-Quilty ”admitted to having committed a felony with regard to those funds.”
Suarez-Quilty said this week that while she doesn't dispute the commission's findings, she is appealing the recommendation for a license revocation.
“There is no question that in the course of my disease of alcoholism I made bad decisions,” Suarez-Quilty said. “And I am desperately sorry for that. I am a sober woman today and living in recovery.”
Suarez-Quilty has practiced law in Iowa for 19 years and runs the Suarez Law Firm on Court Avenue in Des Moines, where she specializes in immigration cases and family law.
In 2012, she sought appointment to fill the term of a resigned Des Moines school board member, but was arrested a few days before the finalists for the position were chosen. According to police records, she came home intoxicated and fought with the man with whom she shared a residence at the time.
She allegedly punched him in the face, leaving his eye swollen shut. She was subsequently convicted of domestic-abuse assault causing bodily injury.
At various times, Suarez-Quilty worked as a staff attorney for Planned Parenthood and as a lobbyist for Orchard Place, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Iowa chapter of the American Cancer Society.
In 2010, she received a private admonition for an alleged assault on a state trooper after a drunken-driving arrest. In 2013, she was publicly reprimanded as a result of her domestic-abuse assault conviction, and in 2015 she was publicly reprimanded for a variety of ethical violations.
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Des Moines lawyer faces disbarment over theft