‘Bullying’ Iowa lawyer who ‘completely botched’ a case faces license suspension

A judge has dismissed a fine against an Iowa nursing home for the sexual assault of a resident, stating the home could not have foreseen the attacker would go after a man rather than the women he previously preyed upon. (Photo by Getty Images)

An Iowa attorney with a history of neglecting clients’ cases is facing a one-year suspension of his law license, in part for alleged “bullying and outrageous” behavior directed toward former clients.

In deciding to recommend a one-year license suspension for attorney Scott D. Fisher of Waukee, the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa cited the “sheer number of ethical violations” and the number of clients adversely affected by Fisher’s alleged conduct: Sixteen separate ethics rules were allegedly violated, involving a total of 28 individual violations effecting five separate clients.

Fisher is alleged to have committed 11 ethics violations with regard to his representation of Haylie Reiter in a 2016 child-custody case. After Reiter fired Fisher, she posted a negative review of him on the internet, advising the public to “steer clear of this one!” Reiter’s review accused Fisher of damaging her case, failing to do his job, and committing “fraud” by requesting money and doing no work on her case.

Fisher publicly responded to the negative review, stating: “You haven’t paid me in over six months. It is interesting to me how this review shows up online immediately when I inform you I will have to collect against your remaining case balance of $4,580.00.”

The Grievance Commission said it appeared Fisher put “very little effort” into Reiter’s case. “Fisher may be capable of being a good lawyer,” the commission stated. “However, Fisher’s interaction with virtually everyone involved in this matter — his own client, opposing counsel, the presiding judge — was largely ineffective and did little to advance his client’s legal interests.”

The commission also questioned Fisher’s internet post, noting that he had “even revealed the specific balance he claimed was owed by his former client … There is nothing in the rules which would authorize a lawyer to reveal such information — particularly on the internet, for all the world to see.”

Fisher was also accused of ethics violations tied to his representation of an Iowa woman in a divorce case. The commission found Fisher had failed to respond to discovery requests in the case, failed to file a financial affidavit with court on behalf of his client, and failed to keep his client informed as to the status of her case.

A third case involved Fisher’s representation of an Iowa man in several custody and domestic abuse cases. After the client left a negative review of Fisher online, Fisher responded, including specific information about Hallett’s outstanding balance with his law office.

The commission also reviewed Firsher’s handling of a parental-rights case in which Fisher’s client paid him an $800 retainer. Fisher later admitted he withdrew $615 of that retainer before performing any work on the case. Later, the client posted a negative review of Fisher online, to which Fisher responded, “We terminated your ex‘s parental rights. We won!” The commission found that “Fisher rarely returned phone calls or text messages and generally made himself inaccessible both to his client and opposing counsel” in the case.

The commission also considered Fisher’s representation of a married couple in a parental rights case. Four months after taking the case, Fisher accepted a corporate job, and three days before a scheduled court hearing on the parental-rights issue, he told the couple he was longer practicing law. His clients, the commission found, were left “livid, scared (and) frustrated.” Fisher allegedly suggested the couple represent themselves in court and provided no guidance as to what they should expect at the hearing.

Fisher abandoned his clients at their “greatest time of need,” the commission found. When the couple requested paperwork and asked for a refund, the commission said, Fisher accused them of “making threats and attempting to extort him.” The commission said Fisher’s response to his clients was “bullying and outrageous … Fisher failed (his clients) in every way possible, or, as he candidly admitted, ‘I completely botched this case.’ ”

Fisher’s general office practices, particularly his bookkeeping, “were substandard, bordering on the atrocious,” the commission found, noting that even the state’s Attorney Disciplinary Board was forced to file a motion to compel and motion for sanctions to obtain “a smattering of financial and billing records related to some of his clients.”

The commission noted that during his disciplinary hearing, Fisher “displayed conduct antithetical to any acceptance of wrongdoing” and had even cross-examined one former client about her past occupation as a stripper.

Fisher has challenged the commission’s recommendations, filing a motion asking the Iowa Supreme Court to set aside the commission’s findings and recommendations due to a missed deadline. The court has denied that motion.

The disciplinary case marks the second time Fisher has been accused of ethics violations. In February 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Fisher for his alleged neglect of six separate appellate court cases.

According to the commission, Fisher now works for Wells Fargo as a strategic sourcing consultant.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.