Vol. 33, No. 9
From the Courts
Colorado Disciplinary Cases
Summaries of Disciplinary Opinions
The summaries for the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board are prepared by the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge. The summaries of the decisions of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge are provided as a service by the Colorado Bar Association and are not the official language of the Decisions. The Colorado Bar Association cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries.
Full copies of the Decisions generally follow the summaries pages. The summaries and full-text Decisions also are accessible from the CBA website: http://www.cobar.org (click on The Colorado Lawyer tab, then the appropriate issue). Decisions, including Exhibits, Complaints, and Amended Complaints and summaries, also are available at the Office of Presiding Disciplinary Judge website: http://www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PDJ/pdj.htm, as well as on LexisNexis® at http://www.lexis.com/research, by clicking on States Legal-U.S./Colorado/Cases/CO Supreme Court Disciplinary Opinions from 1999.
Summaries of Decisions Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(Through June 4, 2004)
People v. Lindemann, No.03PDJ066, 6/2/04. Attorney Disbarred.
Following a sanctions hearing at which respondent did not appear, the Hearing Board disbarred respondent Ward F. Lindemann, attorney registration number 19292, from the practice of law, effective July 3, 2004. Respondent was retained by several clients for whom respondent failed to deliver services in a timely and satisfactory manner, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3. Respondent failed to return calls and keep his clients informed of the status of their cases, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a), and engaged in dishonest conduct by knowingly delaying the return of property belonging to clients, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(d) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent was under suspension for similar conduct in several other client incidents. p.149.
People v. Smith, No.03PDJ073, 6/4/04. Attorney Suspended.
Following a sanctions hearing at which respondent did not appear, the Hearing Board suspended respondent Brian M. Smith, attorney registration number 15658, from the practice of law for one year and one day, effective July 5, 2004. Respondent was retained to represent a client in the probation of her husband’s estate, as well as for the estate and related tax matters concerning her deceased sister-in-law. The client learned that respondent had not filed tax returns for either estate. The client spoke to respondent, who agreed to file the tax returns, though he did not do so. Thereafter, the client was unable to reach respondent. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3 (lawyer shall act with diligence and promptness and avoid neglecting an entrusted matter); Colo. RPC 1.4(a) (lawyer shall keep client informed and comply with requests for information); and Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (on termination, lawyer shall take steps to protect client’s interests and surrender papers). Respondent also did not respond to requests from the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel during its investigation of this matter three years after the client hired him. This conduct violates Colo. RPC 8.1(b) and C.R.C.P. 251.5(d). p.151.
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admission of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(Through July 15, 2004)
[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. Barr, No. 03PDJ096, 6/28/04. Attorney Suspended.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Stuart G. Barr, attorney registration number 04032, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado, effective July 29, 2004, for a period of nine months, with the requirement of a petition for reinstatement pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.29(c). Respondent agreed to represent a client in a personal injury matter, but neglected to effect service on one of the defendants within the time provided in the court’s delay reduction order. Respondent was granted additional time to serve the defendant, but did not do so in the time allotted. Thereafter, the court dismissed the action without prejudice. Respondent did not notify the client of the dismissal or take steps to re-file the case. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.1 (competent representation) and Colo. 1.3 (diligent and prompt representation). The client attempted for two years to obtain information about the case. Respondent did not provide the requested information, in violation of RPC 1.4(a). After the client learned her case was dismissed, she terminated respondent’s representation. Respondent failed for seven months to respond to requests from the client and her new lawyer to surrender her file and related documents, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(c). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding.
People v. Fossenier, No. 04PDJ068, 7/15/04. Attorney Suspended.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Michael Paul Fossenier, attorney registration number 17804, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado, effective August 15, 2004, for a period of six months, with the condition that respondent apply for reinstatement. Respondent broke into an apartment belonging to someone he didn’t know and attacked a resident. The police noted that respondent had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol. Respondent pled guilty to second-degree burglary and criminal mischief, and voluntarily entered a residential treatment program. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 8.4(b) (committing a criminal act reflecting adversely on lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer).
People v. Isaac, No. 04PDJ069, 7/28/04. Attorney Publicly Censured.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and publicly censured respondent Lance Eldon Isaac, attorney registration number 22918. In several matters, respondent failed to competently represent his clients, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.1, by making errors in the content and timing of court filings and failing to file the proper pleadings, documents, or fees. He also neglected legal matters entrusted to him, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3, by not taking timely action in these cases to protect his clients’ interests, which resulted in harm. During these time periods, Respondent suffered from serious health problems that caused or contributed to his misconduct. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.
People v. Matthews, No. 03PDJ068, 6/28/04. Attorney Suspended for One Year and One Day.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Elizabeth B. Matthews, attorney registration number 08836, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado, effective July 29, 2004, for a period of one year and one day. Respondent agreed to represent a client in a civil matter and to file bankruptcy proceedings on the client’s behalf. The client paid respondent an advance in both cases. Respondent deposited some of these fees in her personal account before they were earned, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.15(b). Respondent also violated Colo. RPC 1.15(b) by failing promptly to return client funds or render an accounting. Respondent did not remain in contact with the client, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a). Respondent did not complete work promised the client in either matter, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3. The client subsequently terminated respondent’s services with written notice, though respondent claimed never to have received the letter. Judgment in the civil case was entered against the client. The client sued respondent in small claims court for damages incurred in attorney fees, successor attorney fees, and lost wages. The matter was settled. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.
People v. Muhammad, No. 04PDJ053, 6/28/04. Attorney Suspension Stayed Pending Completion of One-Year Probation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Wazir-Ali Muhammad, attorney registration number19900, from the practice of law for a period of thirty days, effective July 29, 2004, all stayed upon successful completion of a one-year period of probation. Respondent agreed to defend a client in a subrogation action connected with an automobile accident that was completely the client’s fault. The client’s father was named in the original case, although he was in no way at fault or responsible. At the time she hired respondent, the client requested that he also represent her father, though she did not want her father to know she had hired respondent to represent her and her father. Respondent entered an appearance and filed an answer for both parties, but thereafter neglected the matter. A judgment of default was entered against the client and her father. By neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3. By failing to explain a matter to the extent necessary to allow a client to make informed decisions concerning the representation, respondent violated RPC 1.4(b). By representing his client’s father without the father’s knowledge or consent when his ability to do so was materially limited by his representation of the daughter, respondent violated RPC 1.7(d). Respondent was ordered to pay costs and comply with other conditions.
People v. Rokahr, No. 04PDJ036, 6/16/04. Attorney Suspended for One Year.
In this reciprocal discipline action from Nebraska, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Alice L. Rokahr, attorney registration number 16587, from the practice of law for a period of one year, effective July 17, 2004. In the Nebraska case, respondent was disciplined for one year for having colluded with her clients to back-date an easement and filing the false easement in the land records. Respondent self-reported the Nebraska suspension. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.2(d) by assisting a client to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent. Respondent’s conduct also violated Colo. RPC 4.1, by knowingly making a false or misleading statement of fact or law to a third person while representing a client; Colo. RPC 8.4(a), by knowingly assisting another to violate the rules of professional misconduct); Colo. RPC 8.4(c), by engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and Colo. RPC 8.4(h), by engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.
People v. Smith, No. 02PDJ084, 03PDJ092, 04PDJ038, and 04PDJ066, 6/29/04. Attorney Suspended for One Year and One Day.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Matthew Samuel Smith, attorney registration number 22681, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado, effective July 31, 2004, for a period of one year and one day. In one client matter, respondent neglected a dissolution proceeding, which led to foreclosure on marital property. Because of respondent’s inaction, the divorce proceeding was later dismissed for failure to prosecute. The client terminated the representation with respondent and requested a refund of her fees. After more than two years, respondent reimbursed the client. In another matter in which he represented two clients disputing a debt, respondent failed to communicate critical information to his clients about upcoming hearings and stipulations he negotiated with opposing counsel. In a third matter, respondent represented the husband in a divorce proceeding. Over an extended period, however, respondent failed to take proper action in two post-divorce proceedings, leading to harm to his client. Respondent was ordered to make restitution to this client and pay the costs connected with all disciplinary proceedings. In these matters, respondent engaged in a pattern of conduct that violated, among other provisions, Colo. RPC 1.1 (failing to provide competent representation), Colo. RPC 1.3 (neglecting a matter entrusted to him), Colo. RPC 1.4 (failing to keep the client informed), and Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (failing promptly to take steps to protect the clients interests). Respondent was ordered to pay restitution and the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.
People v. Wheeler, No. 03PDJ080, 6/29/04. Attorney Publicly Censured.
In this reciprocal discipline action from the state of Washington, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and publicly censured respondent Bobby O. Wheeler, attorney registration number 21059. The Washington State Bar Association disciplined respondent with public censure on September 13, 2002. Respondent filed a frivolous action, requiring the court to handle a matter it should not have been required to handle. The court issued sanctions against the client. Respondent also failed to attend a hearing, wasting the court’s time. He further failed to obtain a transcript of the hearing for his client, despite repeated requests, and to file medical bills when ordered by the court, further delaying the prosecution of the claim. The respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.4(b), and Colo. RPC 3.1. He was ordered to pay the costs of the Colorado disciplinary proceedings.
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