Attorney’s license suspended following allegations of misconduct

A Philipsburg attorney’s license to practice has been suspended following a disciplinary board investigation.

According to the order dated Tuesday, Michael P. Kovalcin’s license has been suspended for one year and one day. The suspension came after reports of malpractice by the 33-year-old attorney relating to allegations of neglect and mishandling of money.

Kovalcin was the co-founder and co-owner of Scipione & Kovalcin P.C., of State College, according to his LinkedIn profile, with a focus on wills, trusts and estate planning, as well as other legal issues.

A joint petition filed Sept. 26 with the disciplinary board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and authored by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel stated that Kovalcin’s misconduct involved the failure to cooperate with his prior firm partner in dissolving their firm, neglect of two client matters and the inability to account for client funds totaling about $10,000.

Kovalcin formed his law firm with attorney Joseph Scipione in January 2013, the petition said. In 2016, the firm experienced “severe financial distress” due to a large amount of debt incurred by Kovalcin in the name of the firm without his partner’s consent.

After Kovalcin abandoned the firm, Scipione reportedly determined there were insufficient funds in the firm’s joint bank account to cover amounts owed to third parties in Kovalcin’s cases, totaling about $10,000, the petition said.

Kovalcin doesn’t dispute the account held insufficient funds, the petition said, and attributed the deficiency to poor record-keeping and accounting.

Kovalcin also represented a client in a landlord/tenant matter in 2015, the petition said. The case was dismissed due to his reported failure to respond to preliminary objections, and continued to fail to respond to attempts to resolve the situation and file timely responses into 2016.

During a proceeding in May 2016 regarding the matter, Kovalcin admitted he was not licensed to practice before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the petition said. He was granted time to obtain admission to practice before the court by the presiding judge, but reportedly continued to fail to do so.

When his clients contacted him, he reportedly told them he was monitoring the case and had obtained the admission, the petition said, however this statement was false and he had not informed them of a September 2016 hearing date.

An order against his clients was entered in late October 2016 for more than $400,000 in damages and fees, the petition said, but Kovalcin reportedly did not advise them of the order. The clients eventually came to his parents’ home to discuss the judgment, during which time he “became emotional, promised to do what he could to clear up the situation and stated if he could not do so, (the clients) should sue him.”

According to an order dated June 20, the petition said, $215,000 in malpractice was paid out by Kovalcin’s carrier in regard to the judgment against his clients.

Kovalcin violated nine separate rules of professional misconduct, the petition said, including rules that state a lawyer shall provide competent representation of a client, shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness and keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter.

Both the board and Kovalcin jointly agreed on the suspension, the petition said. According to the petition, mitigating circumstances included the fact that he had only been practicing law for three years when the misconduct began, presented evidence that he was suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at the time and is “remorseful for his conduct and understands he should be disciplined.”

According to a response by Kovalcin, he consented “freely and voluntarily” to the suspension followed by a one-year period of probation, acknowledging that the material facts are true.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews