The Colorado Lawyer
Vol. 32, No. 10 [Page 153]
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From the Courts
Colorado Disciplinary Cases
Summaries of Opinions
Summaries of opinions appear on a space-available basis. The summaries for the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and hearing board are prepared by the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge. The summaries of the Opinions of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge are provided as a service by the Colorado Bar Association and are not the official language of the Opinion. The Colorado Bar Association cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries.
Unless otherwise noted, full copies of the Opinions follow the summaries pages. The summaries and full-text Opinions are also available on the CBA home page at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/index.htm (see page 194 for details), as well as on Lexis NexisTM 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.
Summaries of Decisions Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
People v. Andrews, No. 02PDJ097, 08/06/03. Reciprocal Discipline—Attorney Six-Month Suspension.
In this reciprocal discipline matter from the state of Vermont, the Hearing Board suspended Respondent Kjaere Andrews, f/k/a Karen McLaughlin, attorney registration number 14895, from the practice of law for a period of six months. The Supreme Court of Vermont suspended respondent for a period of six months, holding that respondent violated the following Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct: 1.5(b) (the basis or rate of fee shall be communicated in writing); 1.15(a) (an attorney shall hold client’s property separate from attorney’s own property); 1.15(a) (every attorney in private practice who receives funds of a client shall maintain a trust accounting system); and 1.16(d) (upon termination, a lawyer shall refund any advance payment of fee not yet earned). The People did not seek a harsher sanction for respondent’s conduct, which constituted knowing misappropriation of client funds under the Rules of Professional Conduct in Colorado. Accordingly, the Hearing Board imposed the same sanction imposed by the sister jurisdiction, finding that a harsher sanction could not be imposed where respondent lacked adequate notice pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.21(d). The six-month suspension is effective thirty-one days from the date of the Court’s Order. If respondent seeks reinstatement, she must comply with the reinstatement proceedings set forth in C.R.C.P. 251.29(c). Respondent is ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary action. p.155.
People v. Clough, No. 02PDJ065 (consolidated with 02PDJ103), 08/13/03. Attorney Disbarred.
The Hearing Board disbarred Respondent Jerry R. Clough, attorney registration number 25994, from the practice of law, following a sanctions hearing, in this consolidated default proceeding. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 4.3 by providing legal advice to an unrepresented person, and Colo. RPC 4.4 by engaging in abusive conduct toward the same person in a courthouse. In his representation of one client, respondent violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c) by failing to return the fees due the client. Additionally, respondent violated Colo. RPC 8.4(d) and Colo. RPC 3.5(c) by failing to appear at trial; and Colo. RPC 8.4(b) and C.R.C.P. 251.5(b) by engaging in disorderly conduct in a courthouse. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3 by failing to appear at the client’s trial, failing to investigate the client’s legal matter, and failing to file a civil suit on her behalf. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a), by failing to communicate with the client; Colo. RPC 1.16(d), by failing to return the client’s funds upon request; Colo. RPC 1.5(a), by charging an unreasonable fee; and Colo. RPC 5.5(a), by rendering legal advice when under administrative suspension. No mitigating factors were presented on respondent’s behalf. Aggravating factors included the fact that respondent had a dishonest or selfish motive, he committed multiple offenses, his client was vulnerable, and he demonstrated indifference to making restitution. Given respondent’s knowing conversion of client funds, together with the numerous other rule violations and lack of significant mitigating factors, disbarment is the warranted sanction. Disbarment is effective thirty-one days from the date of the order. Respondent is ordered to pay restitution within thirty days of the effective date of the Order, as well as costs of the disciplinary proceeding. p.160.
People v. Cozier, No. 02PDJ106, 08/08/03. Attorney Disbarred.
In this default proceeding, the Hearing Board disbarred Respondent, Clifford G. Cozier, attorney registration number 20550, from the practice of law, following a sanctions hearing. The disciplinary action arose from respondent’s handling of three separate estate matters. With regard to two estate matters, respondent was aware of conflicts among the heirs and beneficiaries of the estates, but failed to discuss with them any actual or potential conflict of interest, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.7(b). In one matter, he induced the heirs to support his appointment as personal representative by representing that he would not charge any fee for his services and thereafter obtained approval from the court for payment of fees. He thus deceived his clients and induced the court to act on false or misleading information in approving his application for fees, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent signed closing documents as trustee of the trust, when he had not been appointed by the court to serve as trustee, nor had he received any authorization to act in that capacity from his individual clients. He also notified third parties that he had been selected to handle administration of the estate, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). In a separate estate matter, respondent negligently converted funds belonging to another client or to a third party, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c) and Colo. RPC 1.15(a). With regard to one out-of-state beneficiary, respondent asked a notary public in Colorado to notarize the beneficiary’s signature, despite his knowledge that neither he nor the notary had witnessed the signature. Respondent then published the signature, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(a) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c). When the court ordered respondent to turn over trust assets and documents in his possession, respondent knowingly failed to comply with the court order, in violation of Colo. RPC 3.4(c). Respondent knowingly converted funds belonging to a client or a third party, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent knowingly failed to respond to demands for information from the Office of Regulation Counsel, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.1(b) and Colo. RPC 3.4(c). Disbarment is effective thirty-one days from the date of the Court’s Order. Respondent is ordered to pay restitution within ninety days of the Order, and the costs of the disciplinary proceeding within sixty days of the date of the Court’s Order. p.166.
People v. Smith, 02PDJ084, 08/13/04. Attorney Suspension.
The Hearing Board suspended Respondent Matthew S. Smith, attorney registration number 22681, from the practice of law for a nine-month period. In his handling of one dissolution of marriage matter, respondent failed to adequately supervise his legal assistant, which resulted in the assistant’s engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Acting as his legal assistant’s direct supervisor, but failing to fulfill his professional obligations with regard to that supervision, respondent violated Colo. RPC 5.3(b). Respondent lost contact with his client and subsequently failed to make every effort to locate him and failed to take adequate measures to confirm the status of the case, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and Colo. RPC 1.4(b). Instead, respondent relied on his assistant to oversee the file, which constituted neglect, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3. Suspension is effective thirty-one days from the date of the Court’s Order. Respondent is ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. p.175.
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
[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. Agbakwu, No. 03PDJ047, 07/24/03. Attorney Suspension.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Charles A. Agbakwu, Sr., attorney registration number 24447, from the practice of law for a period of ninety days (all but thirty days stayed), followed by a two-year period of probation, subject to conditions. Respondent was engaged as alternate defense counsel in a number of cases. The bills he submitted contained duplicative billing. Respondent did not accurately divide the time among the total number of clients when he visited his clients or attended hearings. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent was ordered to pay costs of the proceeding.
People v. Hohertz, No. 02PDJ071, 07/10/03. Attorney Suspension.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Robert M. Hohertz, attorney registration number 13280, from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day. Respondent neglected a client matter, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3, by failing to provide a discovery request to the client, file a response to a motion to compel, and schedule mediation. Respondent failed to keep the client informed and failed to comply with reasonable requests for information, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and 1.4(b), and failed to timely provide an accounting to the client, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.15(b). Respondent was ordered to pay costs of the proceeding.
People v. Robles, No. 03PDJ025, 08/12/03. Attorney Disbarred.
In this reciprocal discipline action from the state of Florida, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and disbarred Respondent Louis S. Robles, attorney registration number 19177, from the practice of law. From 1989 through 2000, respondent represented approximately 8,500 clients in asbestos related litigation. In his legal representation, respondent engaged in a pattern of misconduct by failing to properly communicate with his clients, and failing to properly and timely account and remit funds due the clients. Respondent charged his clients with excessive and improper costs. Respondent’s conduct violated Florida Rules of Professional Conduct 4-1.4(a), 4-1.4(b), 1-1.5(a), and 4-1.5(e). Respondent was ordered to pay costs of the proceeding.
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