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TCL > March 2003 Issue > Summaries of Opinions

March 2003       Vol. 32, No. 3       Page  127
From the Courts
Colorado Disciplinary Cases

Summaries of Opinions

Summaries of Decisions Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(Through 01/16/03)

People v. Kocel, No. 02PDJ035,1/8/03. Attorney Suspended.

Respondent Michael S. Kocel, attorney registration number 16305, was suspended from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of six months. Respondent entered into an attorney/client relationship with two separate clients. In the first matter, he failed to reduce a contingency fee agreement to writing, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.5(c), and he provided financial assistance to the client as an advance on the settlement, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.8(e). In the second matter, respondent neglected the client’s case by failing to appear at scheduled hearings and generally failed to adequately pursue the client’s claim, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3. In addition, he failed to adequately communicate with the client, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a), and failed to return the client’s file when requested, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(d). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. p.129.

Mullison v. People, No. 01PDJ089,12/16/02. Readmission Order.

The Hearing Board readmitted Michael D. Mullison, attorney registration number 15169, to the practice of law in the state of Colorado, effective January 15, 2003. p.131.

Regan v. People, No. 02PDJ102, 1/16/03. Attorney Reinstated.

Andrew J. Regan, attorney registration number 15205, was reinstated to the practice of law, effective January 16, 2003. (No Opinion issued).

People v. Segal, No. 02PDJ028,12/31/02. Attorney Disbarred.

In this default proceeding, the Hearing Board disbarred Respondent Rory Segal, attorney registration number 26867, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado. Respondent represented a client in an appeal and related matters and accepted funds for his representation. After initially taking action on behalf of the client, respondent failed to perform the agreed-upon professional services within a reasonable period of time, constituting neglect, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3. The extent of respondent’s neglect rose to the level of abandonment. As a result of respondent’s neglect, the client’s appeal was dismissed with prejudice. Respondent made no efforts to reinstate the appeal, failed to advise the client to obtain other counsel, and otherwise failed to take steps to protect the client’s interest. Respondent failed to return to the client any portion of the deposit, not all of which he had earned, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(d). Respondent failed to explain to the client the ramifications of respondent’s failure to take necessary action on his behalf, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a). When the client requested an accounting, respondent failed to provide one and failed to return the unearned funds, thus violating Colo. RPC 1.15(b). By accepting the client’s funds, failing to perform the services he was hired to perform, retaining the funds despite the client’s demand that he return the unearned portion over a substantial period of time, respondent engaged in knowing conversion, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent failed to respond to the Request for Investigation, despite repeated attempts by the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel to communicate with him, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.1(b), constituting grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(d). Respondent was ordered to pay restitution and the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. p.134.

People v. Varallo, No. 02PDJ045 (cons. 02PDJ057), 12/20/02. Attorney Disbarred.

In this consolidated proceeding, the Hearing Board disbarred Respondent Michael A. Varallo, attorney registration number 31100, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado. In one matter, Varallo represented six members of an Armenian family facing removal from the United States, each client having different immigration issues and defenses. Varallo received a retainer for his representation. Prior to earning the deposited funds, he exercised dominion and control over the funds without the consent of the clients. Varallo was well aware of his obligations in the handling of client funds, as he previously had been disbarred for knowing conversion of client funds and had been required as a prerequisite to readmission to establish that he understood the absolute necessity to keep client funds in trust until earned. Varallo engaged in a pattern and practice of incompetence, neglect, and failure to communicate with these clients, and ultimately abandoned them in their immigration matters. In a second matter, Varallo represented a client in post-dissolution proceedings. He had agreed to prepare a qualified domestic relations order ("QDRO"), but subsequently failed to communicate with the client over an extended period of months and neglected the client’s matter, ultimately failing to prepare the QDRO on behalf of the client, or otherwise notify the client that he would not finish the QDRO. In both cases, Varallo’s misconduct caused and exposed his clients to serious injury. Varallo knowingly converted client funds and intentionally deceived clients, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c); failed to render competent representation, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.1; engaged in conduct resulting in prejudice to the administration of justice, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(d); neglected and abandoned clients, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3; failed to communicate with clients, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a); failed to adequately explain a matter to the client, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(b); failed to obey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal, in violation of Colo. RPC 3.4(c); made false statements of material fact to the immigration court, in violation of Colo. RPC 3.3(a)(1); and failed to participate in the disciplinary proceedings. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings. Disbarment is effective thirty-one days from the date of the order. p.140.

Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge

(Through 01/16/03)

[The Presiding Disciplinary Judge’s approval of Conditional Admissions of Misconduct does not result in a written Opinion but only a brief Order, which does not constitute precedent. Conditional Admissions of Misconduct are public record and are available for review at the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, 600 17th St., Suite 510-South, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 825-2797. They are also available on LexisNexisTM at http:// www.lexis.com/research by clicking on States Legal U.S./Colorado/Cases and Court Rules/By Court/Colorado Supreme Court Disciplinary Opinions.]

People v. Chiapuzio, No. 02PDJ108, 12/30/02. Attorney Suspended.

In this reciprocal discipline matter from the state of Wyoming, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ Amended Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Dale D. Chiapuzio, attorney registration number 26716, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of thirty-six months. Respondent was suspended from the practice of law for thirty-six months in the State of Wyoming based on his entering a plea of guilty on two counts of promoting obscenity by knowingly disseminating obscene material in the form of live video images of himself to two minor females, constituting misdemeanors in the state of Wyoming. Respondent was ordered to pay costs of the proceeding.

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