08/08/2016

Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge

 

Disciplinary Case Summaries


The summaries of disciplinary case Opinions and Conditional Admissions of Misconduct are prepared by the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge (PDJ) and are provided as a service by the CBA. The CBA cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries. Opinions, including exhibits, complaints, amended complaints, and summaries, are available at the PDJ website, www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PDJ/PDJ_Decisions.asp, and on LexisNexis.® The summaries and full-text Opinions are also accessible from the CBA website: www.cobar.org (click on “For Members,” and then “Opinions/Rules/Statutes”).


No. 16PDJ055. People v. Bouzari. 7/13/2016.

The PDJ approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Eloise Henderson Bouzari, attorney registration number 26776, for six months, all stayed pending the successful completion of a three-year period of probation, with conditions. Bouzari’s probation took effect on July 13, 2016.

In June 2012, Bouzari agreed to represent a client in a civil case against the University of Denver (DU) under an hourly fee arrangement. Gradually, Bouzari and the client developed a close personal relationship, and Bouzari offered to allow the client, who did not have sufficient financial resources to live on his own, to move into her own house. She allowed the client to use her credit card to get groceries for the house and put gas in his car. Bouzari often told the client that she loved him, and Bouzari talked with the client about adopting him. Bouzari and the client also traveled together to see Bouzari’s daughter. Both Bouzari and the client deny any sexual, romantic, or intimate relationship.

In January 2013, the client’s case was converted into a contingency fee arrangement, but Bouzari did not provide the client with a written contingent fee agreement. In February 2013, Bouzari filed suit against DU on the client’s behalf. In April 2013, Bouzari also filed on the client’s behalf a suit against another attorney for legal malpractice. Bouzari asked other lawyers to work on these cases with her as co-counsel; those lawyers entered appearances in both cases in July 2013.

By January 2014, Bouzari’s relationship with the client began to sour, with the client telling Bouzari several times that he wanted her to withdraw from representing him. He also asked Bouzari not to talk to him like family, but rather as a client. Though Bouzari remained counsel of record during the settlement of the legal malpractice case and pending the ongoing litigation with DU, the client moved out of Bouzari’s home and into a luxury apartment complex, for which Bouzari executed a guarantor agreement.

In October 2014, after the DU litigation had been dismissed on summary judgment, the client grieved Bouzari. She received a request for response in January 2015. The next month, she requested a protection order against the client in which she repeated some allegations he had made in his grievance and disclosed other confidential information about her client, though she believes she disclosed only what was necessary to protect her personal safety.

Bouzari’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.5(c) (a lawyer shall enter into contingent fee agreements that conform to the requirements of Chapter 23.3 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure); Colo. RPC 1.6 (a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client); Colo. RPC 1.7 (restricting the circumstances in which a lawyer may represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest); Colo. RPC 1.8(a) (a lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client unless the client is advised to seek independent legal counsel and the client gives written informed consent to the transaction); and Colo. RPC 1.8(e) (a lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with a pending or contemplated litigation).

No. 15PDJ100. People v. Reardon. 6/1/2016.

Following a reciprocal discipline hearing, a hearing board ordered imposition of concurrent reciprocal discipline and suspended John Elliott Reardon, attorney registration number 07801, for two years, effective nunc pro tunc to June 12, 2015. To be reinstated, Reardon will bear the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law.

In June 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit suspended Reardon from practicing in that court for two years. The two-year suspension was imposed because Reardon provided his immigration client with incompetent representation when he failed to follow the rules of appellate procedure, resulting in the dismissal of his client’s appeal. In imposing its sanction, the Tenth Circuit reviewed Reardon’s past filings and found that for at least a decade, his appellate filings had been adjudged incoherent. Because Reardon was suspended by the Tenth Circuit while he was serving a period of probation in Colorado courts for other misconduct, the hearing board concluded that reciprocal discipline in Colorado was appropriate under CRCP 251.21(e) and that substantially different discipline was not warranted in Colorado.

No. 16PDJ056. People v. Valenti. 7/18/2016.

The PDJ suspended Michael A. Valenti, attorney registration number 48216, for 30 days, all stayed pending the successful completion of a one-year period of probation, with conditions as imposed by the Supreme Court of Kentucky. The probation took effect on July 18, 2016.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky sanctioned Valenti for commingling personal funds with client funds in his firm’s escrow account, in violation of Kentucky Supreme Court Rule 3.130-1.15(a) (a lawyer shall hold property of clients of third persons separate from the lawyer’s own property).

The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel sought the same discipline as that imposed by the Supreme Court of Kentucky. Valenti’s misconduct in Kentucky constituted grounds for the imposition of reciprocal discipline in Colorado under CRCP 251.21(e).

No. 15PDJ088. Weston v. People. 5/27/2016.

Following a reinstatement hearing, a hearing board denied Eric Bruce Weston, attorney registration number 26296, reinstatement to the practice of law under CRCP 251.29. Weston may not file another petition for reinstatement for two years.

In 2002, Weston was convicted in California of an attempted lewd act on a minor under the age of 14. Weston’s law license was suspended for three years, and he has remained suspended since that time.

Weston’s reinstatement petition was not granted because he failed to present clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated from his former conduct and that he has maintained his professional competence during his long absence from the practice of law. In reaching that determination, the hearing board focused on Weston’s failure to cogently explain why he engaged in misconduct and to furnish proof that he has been rehabilitated from such behavior.

No. 15PDJ096. People v. Williamson. 5/23/2016.

Following a sanctions hearing, the PDJ disbarred Stephen Thomas Williamson, attorney registration number 05964. Williamson’s disbarment took effect on June 27, 2016.

While serving as special water counsel for two districts, Williamson neglected more than 10 cases. In those cases, Williamson failed to appear for numerous status conferences and failed to file court-ordered pleadings. At least two of his client’s cases were dismissed, but Williamson did not inform his client of their dismissal. Thereafter, he failed to cooperate with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel during their investigation into his misconduct. Williamson’s license to practice law was immediately suspended in April 2015 for his failure to cooperate, yet more than two months later he filed a brief with the Colorado Supreme Court on behalf of a client.

Through this misconduct, Williamson violated Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (a lawyer shall protect a client’s interests upon termination of the representation); Colo. RPC 3.4(c) (a lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); Colo. RPC 5.5(a)(1) (a lawyer shall not practice law without a law license or other specific authorization); Colo. RPC 8.1(b) (a lawyer shall not knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority); and Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). Williamson also contravened CRCP 251.10(a), which requires a lawyer who is under investigation to file a written response to allegations within 21 days after receiving notice of the investigation.