The Investigators

Sep 25, 2013 10:06 AM by Matthew Schwartz

News 4 Investigators: Lowering the bar?

Tucson - Polly Page was in the middle of a divorce and custody battle for her two kids when her attorney vanished. She says Grady Wade closed his Tucson law office in 2011 without telling her. We've learned he also didn't tell at least 15 other clients.

It gets worse. Wade was arrested in December of 2011 after a hit and run crash in Blythe, Ca. He was charged with DUI, possession of a loaded gun and resisting arrest. Wade later allegedly said he was on his way to Oxnard to kill his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

Page told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "It's scary, that someone like that...I was sitting in an office with this man and trusting him with my kids, and my life. And since this happened my life hasn't been the same. My jaw dropped. I didn't know what I was going to do."

Page had given wade her Jeep, worth $5,200, in exchange for his representation. But with Wade gone and the 35-year old single mother unable to afford another attorney, she represented herself. She lost her case, getting 50 percent custody, but had wanted more time with her infant son.

Page says, "Pretty expensive divorce."

The Green Valley resident filed a complaint with the state's Client Protection Fund, requesting to be reimbursed $4,000, thinking that Wade did about $1,200 worth of work for her. The fund's mission is to re-pay clients who lost money to a dishonest attorney. Every attorney in Arizona is supposed to contribute $10 a year to the fund. However, Page's claim was denied last week. The fund's trustees said they were "Unable to conclude that Mr. Wade engaged in dishonest conduct."

When Page read the denial letter last week, she says, "I just started crying. The Client Protection Fund says their purpose is to instill a sense of trust in the legal community. And I don't feel that way at all.

Chas Wirken is the chair of the Client Protection fund's five-member board of trustees. The News 4 Tucson Investigators went to see Wirken at his Phoenix office, seeking some answers.

Wirken said, "Yes, he abandoned his practice. That isn't what he would call dishonest conduct."

We asked Wirken, "How do you excuse that behavior? How does your committee excuse that behavior?" He replied, "I'm not excusing his behavior, sir."

Wirken explained, "This isn't a case of a lawyer who stole a settlement from a client. He did not do an insignicant amount of work."

The trustees' decision was not affected by something that happened last October: Grady Wade was disbarred. The ruling cited a pattern of "Illegal conduct" and "Indifference to making restitution." He was ordered to re-pay Page $5,200. But Wade's whereabouts remain unknown.

No one answered the door both times we went to Wade's last-known address.

Page says, "Now I'm getting ready to file bankruptcy."

Wirken told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "I wanna bet you that there's somebody out there that's willing to help her."

Polly Page is planning to appeal the decision to deny her claim and hopes that some domestic-relations lawyer does indeed come forward to help her.

Grady Wade was one of 12 lawyers disbarred in Arizona last year. And as for the Client Protection Fund, in 2011, the most recent year in which statistics are available, it paid out about $190,000 for 18 claims.

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