Elizabeth Joseph, city attorney for the town of Big Water and a plural wife of polygamist Mayor Alex Joseph, has received a year's suspension from the Utah State Bar for commingling client funds.
The suspension, recommended by a Bar disciplinary hearing panel and upheld by its board of commissioners, was approved by the Utah Supreme Court on Dec. 31.Leslie Ronn, clerk of the association's disciplinary court, said the matter stemmed from a probate case Joseph handled for the survivor of "one of her sister wives or sister wives' sisters or something who was involved in an automobile accident and died."
The accident victim left her daughter a $20,000 life insurance policy. While going through the legal proceedings, Joseph placed the money into her own account for holding.
"Instead of waiting for the appropriate documents, she stuck it in her own account and kept really lousy records, and that was ultimately the end of it," Ronn said.
"I believe she and her attorney brought it to the attention of the Bar that there was a problem, so that was a mitigating factor. In addition, Mrs. Joseph did repay the money," she added.
A suspension, which prevents an attorney from practicing law during the period set forth, is one of the more serious penalties imposed by the Bar.
Joseph could have received a more lenient private reprimand, a public reprimand or probation. The most serious punishment is disbarment.