Missouri Supreme Court suspends license of one-time Cape lawyer

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The law license of an Anna, Ill., lawyer who once practiced in Cape Girardeau was suspended for a year Tuesday by the Missouri Supreme Court. He is accused of misleading clients about the status of cases and failing to deposit client settlement funds into a trust account.

According to filings from the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, Gary E. Stark, formerly of Johnson, Stark and Schneider LLC -- now Johnson and Schneider LLC -- was hired by Pamela Alford of Marble Hill, Mo., in 2000 to sue John Lyons Symposiums for breach of contract. Alford, who promotes celebrity horse trainers, agreed to perform marketing and promotion for a share of Lyons' income. In her lawsuit, filed in Bollinger County, Alford alleged that Lyons owed her in excess of $1 million.

The case was dismissed after Lyons asked the court to take heed of a Colorado court case. Stark filed no response to the dismissal request, then asked the court to reconsider the decision after the dismissal. When Stark failed to seek a hearing on the reconsideration, the motion was dismissed.

Similarly, when Stark appealed the dismissal to the Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals, he did not respond to deadlines for filing supporting documents and the appeal was dismissed Jan. 9, 2004. From 2003 to 2005, Stark continued to tell Alford the appeal was pending.

The report from the disciplinary counsel shows that Stark took on two more breach of contract cases on Alford's behalf and represented to her that he had filed lawsuits when no lawsuits had been filed. In a fourth case, the disciplinary counsel reported that Stark received a settlement check for $19,394.60 on behalf of a client in a workers' compensation case, failed to report receipt of the money to the client and failed to set the money aside in a trust

account.

Stark's license to practice law in Illinois was suspended for 60 days, from November to January, based on his actions in Alford's cases. A new complaint, still pending with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission, was filed against Stark in May for taking a case in Williamson County, Ill., in 2005 but again failing to file the promised lawsuit.

When the Missouri Supreme Court order was issued Tuesday, Stark's license was already suspended in Missouri for failing to file paperwork showing he had kept up with continuing education requirements.

Reached at his Anna office, Stark said he had been expecting the Missouri Supreme Court ruling. "It is a very bad part of my life, and I am trying to move on," Stark said.

Because of interstate agree­ments, Illinois will likely take action against Stark's license based on the Missouri suspension, said Peter Rotskoff, litigation group manager with the disciplinary commission.

Until that time, Stark can legally practice law in Illinois, Rotskoff said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

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