After seven prior sanctions, Iowa lawyer faces possible license suspension

By: - November 17, 2023 4:24 pm

The Iowa Supreme Court’s Attorney Disciplinary Board and the Grievance Commision handle ethics complaints filed against Iowa lawyers. (Photo via Canva; seal courtesy of the Iowa Supreme Court)

After seven prior sanctions for ethics violations, a Des Moines immigration lawyer is facing the possible suspension of his law license.

The Grievance Commission of the Iowa Supreme Court is recommending that the court suspend the license of Ta-Yu Yang of Des Moines for 60 days, citing his numerous past disciplinary actions.

According to the Grievance Commission, the state’s Client Security Commission received a notice from Yang’s bank account in 2021, indicating he had overdrawn his client trust account. Such accounts are designed to hold money paid by clients for services that an attorney has yet to provide and has yet to bill. The overdraft triggered an audit of the account by the CSC.

It was then proven that certain certified statements made by Yang regarding the account were false and that Yang violated several rules pertaining to client trust accounts, the Grievance Commission alleges.

In determining what sanctions to impose, the commission said mitigating factors included Yang’s immigration practice, which caters to an underserved community, and his provision of pro bono work at no cost to clients.

Yang cited his impending retirement as a mitigating factor, but the commission rejected that given his plans to continue performing legal work in his retirement.

The board cited several aggravating factors, noting that he had been admonished previously for similar conduct involving trust account violations, misrepresentations to the CSC, and a lack of diligence.

The commission also noted that Yang made false statements to the CSC, and stated that Yang “has no current plan on how to rectify these recordkeeping concerns moving forward, and does not plan to hire a bookkeeper, thereby suggesting a lack of understanding of the wrongness of his actions. … In sum, Yang’s response to the audit and the complaint reflects a disregard for the fundamental safekeeping duties that all Iowa attorneys owe to their clients.”

In recommending a 60-day suspension of Yang’s law license, the commission also recommended that the court impose other sanctions if Yang chooses to practice again after his suspension is lifted. The sanctions would include that he only be permitted to practice after showing proof of attendance at an educational course on the topic of trust accounting, and that he be required to keep on staff a bookkeeper or accountant to manage his trust account.

The court has yet to act on the recommendation.

In the past, Yang has been privately admonished on at least five occasions and publicly reprimanded twice, according to the commission.

The sanctions were imposed for neglecting client matters; knowingly making a misrepresentation on an appeal in an immigration case; failing to represent a client diligently; failing to file an appeal brief; failing to appear on behalf of a client; failing to maintain client ledger sheets from 2005 to 2018; failing to complete monthly triple-reconciliations of client trust accounts; submitting false certifications on CSC questionnaires; and failing to provide information as requested in an Attorney Disciplinary Board investigation.

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Clark Kauffman
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.