Alabama Auditor surrenders law license

(image: Jim Zeigler's office) Questionable surrender of Alabama auditor's law license

Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler surrendered his law license earlier this year, in what many say is a puzzling move. NBC 15's Andrea Ramey dug up a document regarding a payment dispute one client had. Zeigler says that incident has nothing to do with why he surrendered his license.

An order issued by the Alabama State Bar Association in April states the bar's Disciplinary Committee accepted the surrender of Jim Zeigler's law license. Zeigler, who holds statewide office as Alabama's auditor, had run a law practice specializing in elder care. A 2017 letter NBC 15 News recently obtained shows one of his clients took issue with the $12,000 he was paid.

The letter was written by the Mobile County Bar Association's fee dispute committee. That committee reviews client complaints. The letter states in 2014, a client paid Zeigler $12,000 for work that Zeigler not only didn’t do, but it also says the client paid for work that does not even require an attorney. Specifically, the letter states the client paid Zeigler to fill out applications for Medicaid Home Care, nursing home eligibility and Veterans Aid and Attendance. The client also paid Zeigler to apply for admission to a Veteran's Home, "a process that does not require legal assistance," the letter states.

The committee also found Zeigler did not do any of the estate planning he was paid to do and that he restructured the client's assets "that did not have to be restructured." Because Zeigler did not keep "itemized time records" on the client's case, the committee found it "difficult to correlate the withdrawals” from the $12,000 retainer and determined Zeigler had to pay $10,000 back, which he did. The letter also notes that because Zeigler entered public office it precluded him from performing the legal work he was hired to do.

Zeigler told NBC 15 News this incident has nothing to do with why he surrendered his license and says his actions were not being investigated by the state bar. Zeigler says he simply does not intend to practice law anymore and did not want to continue to pay bar dues or malpractice insurance. Multiple attorneys NBC 15 News spoke with say surrendering your license is very unusual because you can simply go inactive. Zeigler says he had been inactive since 2015 when he became auditor. He says the only reason he didn’t surrender it then was because he considered running for attorney general.

The state bar says it cannot comment on this case. The attorney who drafted the 2017 letter also stated he could not comment. The client who disputed the charges did not want to be identified. In May, the Supreme Court of Alabama adopted the order of the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Commission, accepting the surrender of Zeigler's license.

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