Attorney Songstad has been disbarred

Maui attorney Steven Songstad has been disbarred from practicing law, based on multiple ethical violations in 14 cases, according to a Hawaii Supreme Court order.

The order takes effect May 17.

A news release Friday from the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel said Songstad was ordered to pay restitution of more than $18,000 to his clients “due to his misappropriation of client funds.”

The news release says Songstad “engaged in a pattern of misconduct involving numerous instances of lack of diligence and abandonment of client cases, failure to supervise or train his staff, failure to communicate with clients or protect their interests, and failure to obey court directives.

“He also failed to enter into written contingency fee agreements with clients, made misrepresentations regarding the status of client matters, failed to provide an accounting to clients, and converted settlement funds received on behalf of one client to his own use and benefit,” the news release said.

Starting Jan. 14, 2010, the state Supreme Court had ordered an interim suspension on Songstad, based on his failure to cooperate with pending investigations. While he was suspended from practicing law, Songstad drafted legal documents for a former client and advised the client about a civil court action, the Supreme Court found.

“The public is cautioned and advised that Mr. Songstad cannot practice law until reinstated by order of the Hawaii Supreme Court,” the news release said. “Mr. Songstad cannot accept any new retainers, clients or legal matters.”

According to the Supreme Court order, aggravating factors leading to the decision to disbar Songstad included “a pattern of misconduct over time, vulnerable clients, a selfish motive, multiple violations in the present matter, bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary process by intentionally failing to comply with orders of the disciplinary agency, a refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of the conduct in the record, substantial experience in the practice of law and an indifference to making restitution.”

“We find no mitigating factors,” the order said.

Any reinstatement to practice law would require proof that Songstad paid $18,333 to one client and $100 to another, according to the Supreme Court order.

Songstad, who had represented clients in both civil and criminal cases, couldn’t be reached for comment late last week. A Wailuku phone number for him was not in service.

Songstad, 66, was admitted to the Hawaii bar on Oct. 17, 1975.