Nebraska Supreme Court suspends Elkhorn attorney who disclosed client info -
Published Friday, November 22, 2013 at 11:06 am / Updated at 5:52 pm
Nebraska Supreme Court suspends Elkhorn attorney who disclosed client info

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended an Elkhorn defense attorney for disclosing confidential information about a former client to a prosecutor.

In a ruling issued Friday, the high court ordered Donna J. Tonderum to serve at least three years of the suspension before she can apply for reinstatement.

“Her breach of client confidentiality is an extremely serious offense,” the court stated in its ruling.

Tonderum, who has practiced law in Nebraska since 2003, did not contest the disciplinary proceedings that led to the suspension. But in an interview with The World-Herald Friday, she disputed key details of the accusation.

The court's ruling gave the following account of the violation:

On Aug. 13, 2012, a prosecutor charged Kevin H. Beltran of Columbus with first-degree sexual assault in Platte County. Tonderum initially represented Beltran, but several days later, his family hired a different attorney.

On Sept. 7, 2012, Tonderum called the prosecutor with names of witnesses and other information related to her former client's case.

“Tonderum stated that she 'hated' the other attorney, that she knew her former client was guilty, and that she wanted to make sure the prosecutor sent Tonderum's former client to prison,” according to the court's ruling.

Several days later, the prosecutor filed a grievance with the Counsel for Discipline, the state agency that investigates such complaints. The prosecutor also notified the defendant's new attorney and had the judge in the case appoint a special prosecutor to avoid a conflict of interest.

The sexual assault case has been on hold since December 2012 when Beltran, 18, failed to appear at a hearing. A bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Tonderum, who formerly worked as a Platte County public defender, sent a letter to the Counsel for Discipline admitting that she had a conversation about Beltran with the prosecutor. She called the conservation an “ethical violation” because she discussed a former client.

But she denied she said Beltran was guilty. She also denied saying she hated the other attorney.

“There was no way I would ever try to get my client, or my former client, sent to prison,” she told The World-Herald.

The Counsel for Discipline received the letter, but Tonderum did not otherwise defend herself during the formal disciplinary process, the high court noted.

“It wasn't worth it to me to fight this at all,” she said Friday. “I know I did something wrong, I know they would have probably suspended me anyway. Why fight it?”

Because Tonderum does not have a prior record of professional discipline, the high court opted against disbarment. But the court said disclosure of a client's confidential information undermines the broader public trust in the legal profession, so suspension was appropriate.

Tonderum, 45, said she closed her Elkhorn practice at the end of last year so she could stay at home with her five children. She does not plan to practice law again in Nebraska, she added.

Contact the writer: Joe Duggan    |  

Joe works in the Lincoln bureau, where he helps cover state government, the Legislature, state Supreme Court and southeast Nebraska.

Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Omaha police investigate two Sunday shootings
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
Grace: Pipe organ concert a tribute to couple's enduring love
Omaha-area jails and ERs new front line in battling mental illness
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Civil rights hearing to consider voting policies in Midwest
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Explosion near 29th, Woolworth damages vehicles
Omaha police arrest man, 19, accused in March shooting
Earth gets its day in the sun at Elmwood Park
< >
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »