Missouri Supreme Court sets aside disbarment of Columbia attorney

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | 4:20 p.m. CST; updated 6:34 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 17, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the disbarment of a Columbia attorney accused of mishandling funds and neglecting clients.

Michael W. Blum, a former state assistant attorney general, ran for District 25 state representative in 2004 as a Democrat. He finished second in the primary to eventual general election winner Judy Baker. In 2003, Blum founded The Blum Law Firm LLC.

The court sustained a motion filed Dec. 15 by Blum's attorney, Robert Russell of Sedalia, to vacate Blum's default disbarment.

The court disbarred Blum on Nov. 25 after he failed to respond within 30 days to allegations of misconduct filed by the state's Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. In Missouri, the Supreme Court is responsible for disciplining judges and attorneys for ethical and professional violations.

Court documents filed with the court accuse Blum of inappropriately moving funds between his trust accounts and operating accounts, failing to properly communicate with clients and neglecting cases.

In November, Alan Pratzel, the state's chief disciplinary counsel, said the misconduct stemmed from the manner in which the funds were handled. There was no evidence that Blum stole funds from his accounts, Pratzel said.

In the motion, Blum conceded that he had violated Missouri Supreme Court rules by "failing to keep proper trust account records and failing to follow proper trust account procedures."

Blum also did not contest that he had failed to respond in a timely manner citing his "suffering from both depression and anxiety" and "difficulty coping with the disciplinary process" as reasons for his failure to file an answer at that time, according to the motion.

Calls to Blum's office were not returned. A person at Russell's firm said he was out of the office. Messages left for him were not returned.

Blum now has 30 days to file an answer to the allegations with the state's Disciplinary Hearing Panel, according to the court's judgment.

In the meantime, Pratzel said Wednesday that Blum may practice law.

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