Lawyer vows to fight license suspension: 'It didn't seem fair'

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

A disciplinary argument, seeking the suspension of York attorney Clarence Allen, quotes him telling a court he’s “had enough,” “just tired” and having “no more fight left.”

On the phone Friday, however, Allen sounded pretty fired up about losing his law license.

“If I can appeal the decision, I will,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Allen from the state bar for two years beginning May 14. The order was issued Thursday following a process that began after a disciplinary petition was filed in December 2020.

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The high court’s disciplinary board found the 69-year-old violated 14 rules of professional conduct involving five different clients, with some cases stretching out two or three or more years. Violations included failing to provide competent representation, failing to promptly reply to requests for information, failing to communicate with clients, improper fund management, lying to a tribunal and dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

“We conclude [Allen’s] multiple breaches of his obligations to his clients coupled with his prior disciplinary history, his lack of remorse, and his failure to accept responsibility demonstrate that he is unfit to practice law and is a threat to the public,” the board stated in its recommendation for a two-year suspension in January.

The cases cited in the report involved a man who hired Allen in 2018 to help him complete his divorce, which had remained unresolved as of May 2021.

Another woman sought to sue a restaurant over a food sickness, with the case still pending. Allen also represented a couple in a civil case  and a woman suing a grocery store after she slipped and fell in 2016. The latter case was eventually dismissed.

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Allen also represented an intellectually and developmentally disabled man in a criminal assault case in 2019. The report shows Allen allegedly missed a hearing and then missed a  hearing intended to explain his absence at another hearing.

At a contempt hearing in January 2020, Judge Craig Trebilcock noted Allen had a history of failing to appear at hearings for other clients. He   described Allen’s practice as “chaotic, undisciplined, haphazard,” the report shows, and  held him in contempt. Trebilcock later filed the disciplinary complaint.

As part of that process, a hearing was held in May 2021. After four witnesses testified, Allen testified in his defense. The report quotes him as saying he “had enough” and “just wants to get this over with.”

“If you suspend my license, fine. If I go to jail, fine. I’ve had enough. It’s 33 years and I’m just tired. I have no more fight left in me,” Allen was quoted as testifying.

The report shows he began practicing law in Pennsylvania in 1987.

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After the court ordered Allen’s suspension, he said he hadn’t learned of or received the decision until reporters contacted him seeking comment.

In response, he said his biggest complaint was the apparent lack of investigation into the allegations, including speaking to four of the five clients discussed in the report.

“Nobody talked to those four clients, and those clients never filed a complaint,” Allen said. “It didn’t seem fair it was an incomplete investigation.”

He pointed out he’s kept in touch with those clients, including the couple in the civil matter and the man in the criminal case. He said he also reduced his fee in the criminal case, waived a $6,000 fee in the civil matter and refunded money in the divorce case due to the delays in finding the man’s wife.

Allen admitted he did miss court hearings, saying medication he was taking around that time caused memory loss but that he’s no longer on that medication.

He insisted, though, the disciplinary allegations were unfair since the clients involved weren’t interviewed.

As for the allegation about the chaotic practice, he said he represents a lot of low-income clients and said his practice can look like “an emergency room,” including one case where he said he let a homeless person sleep at his office while representing him.

Allen said he’s looking into the possibility of appealing the bar suspension.

— Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.