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TCL > December 2004 Issue > Summaries of Disciplinary Opinions

The Colorado Lawyer
December 2004
Vol. 33, No. 12 [Page  157]

© 2004 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved.

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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 October 14, 2004)

People v. Mascarenas, No. 02PDJ044, 12/31/03. Attorney Suspended. 

Following a trial held on March 24-26, 2003, the Hearing Board, by modified opinion dated December 31, 2003, suspended Respondent Steven Jude Mascarenas, registration number 15612, from the practice of law for a period of ninety days with restitution, upon reinstatement a one-year period of probation. The October 30, 2003 Opinion was appealed and on September 30, 2004, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the Hearing Board's decision. By separate order dated October 14, 2004, the effective date of the suspension is November 13, 2004.

In a child custody matter, respondent insisted that the client's mother, who was paying attorney fees and costs in the case, provide security to guaranty future fees. The Hearing Board found that respondent violated Colo. RPC 4.3 when he advised the mother that the documents were legal and did not advise her to consult independent counsel. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a), Colo. RPC 1.4(b), and Colo. RPC 1.15(b) when he failed to provide a prompt accounting of fees and costs after several requests from the client and his mother.

In other matters, the People alleged, among other claims, that respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.5(a) when respondent charged clients to prepare the promissory note to secure his fee and another fee to release the deed of trust securing the promissory note. The Hearing Board found that the promissory note and other documents gave adequate notice to the debtors of their responsibility for these fees, which the Board found were not unreasonable on their face. The Board concluded, however, that respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.5(a) by charging compound interest on fees for the months he failed to provide an accounting. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge dissented from the order of restitution to one client.

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

(Through October 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 at http://www.coloradosupreme court.com/PDJ/pdj.htm and 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. Crossman, No. 04PDJ006, 10/08/0404. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent William V. Crossman, Jr., attorney registration number 01702, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of two years. All but ninety days of the suspension are stayed upon successful completion of a twenty-one month period of probation. Suspension is effective October 15, 2004.

Respondent neglected or failed to handle competently and diligently several client matters, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.1 and Colo. RPC 1.3. In one matter, respondent represented an elderly woman who lived in an assisted living facility. He filed a claim for legal separation against his client’s husband to try to obtain money from the sale of the family home, so the wife could stay in the facility. The husband lived in a locked Alzheimer’s unit. Respondent erroneously attempted to serve the husband at the Alzheimer’s unit instead of the husband’s conservator. After the husband died and the matter was settled, respondent delayed for many months removing a lis pendens from the home.

In other cases, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a) when he failed to return client calls or otherwise respond to client requests for information. He also did not provide an accounting and failed to refund unearned fees to a client after he was terminated. This conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.15(b). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of this proceeding and comply with other conditions.

People v. Egbune, No. 04PDJ03, 10/08/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Chuck Odifu Egbune, attorney registration number 26022, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of six months. Suspension is effective December 1, 2004. All but thirty days of the suspension are stayed upon successful completion of a two-year period of probation.

Respondent was required to check all four pieces of his luggage on an international flight. The airline lost one of respondent’s bags and it was never found. Respondent sued the airline in Denver County Court, stating in the complaint that the amount in controversy was under $10,000. The airline transferred the case to district court based on a counterclaim alleging that respondent had engaged in fraud when he stated during discovery that his losses amounted to almost $50,000. Responded never produced documentary evidence in support of the specific items lost and the amounts claimed.

By engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, misrepresentation, fraud, or deceit, respondent violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of this proceeding and comply with other conditions.

People v. LaBarre, No. 04PDJ075, 9/24/04. Attorney Publicly Censured.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and publicly censured Respondent Edward J. LaBarre, attorney registration number 08116. While handling several criminal cases on a pro bono basis, respondent became associated with a prisoner in Sterling Correctional Facility ("Sterling"). Sterling officials suspected the prisoner was assisting respondent on legal matters connected with other inmates. Prison officials determined that respondent violated prison rules when he sent this prisoner materials about respondent’s current cases marked as "legal mail." Respondent also donated funds to the prisoner’s account, which prison authorities construed as violating the prohibition against prisoners engaging in business without approval of the Department of Corrections.

Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.6 (confidentiality), Colo. RPC 5.3 (responsibilities regarding non-lawyer assistants), and Colo. RPC 8.4(h) (conduct adversely affecting lawyer’s fitness to practice law). Respondent was ordered to pay costs in this disciplinary proceeding.

People v. Marinoff, Nos. 03PDJ046 and 04PDJ085, 10/15/04. Attorney Suspension Stayed Upon Successful Completion of Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Brandon Marinoff, attorney registration number 20900, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of eighteen months, six months of which are stayed pending successful completion of a two-year period of probation. Sanction is effective November 15, 2004.

Respondent failed to properly evaluate and challenge claims by clients made in support of immigration applications on which the parties could not prevail. This conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.1. In other immigration cases, respondent neglected client matters by failing to timely file court documents and adequately prepare for hearings, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3.

Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and (b) when he failed to keep clients informed of the status of their cases and explain legal issues so that clients could make informed decisions. Respondent charged unreasonable fees in some cases, violating Colo. RPC 1.15(a), and failed to notify clients of potential conflicts, violating Colo. RPC 1.7(a) and (b). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding and comply with other conditions.

People v. Mascarenas, No. 03PDJ011, 9/10/04. Attorney Suspension Stayed Upon Completion of One-Year Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Steven J. Mascarenas, attorney registration number 15612, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of ninety days, all stayed upon successful completion of a one-year period of probation. Sanction is effective October 11, 2004.

Respondent’s fee for representing a client in two matters was partially secured by a deed of trust on the client’s home. In one case, a divorce matter, the deed of trust encumbered the marital residence involved in the divorce. Respondent did not advise the client regarding this conflict of interest nor advise the client to check with independent counsel. By entering into a business transaction with a client for his own or his firm’s benefit and knowingly acquiring an interest in property adverse to his client that was involved in the matter for which he was hired, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.8(a) and (j).

Respondent also failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of the divorce case and to advise the client properly about fees, costs, and disbursements. This conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and (b). Respondent was ordered to pay costs in this proceeding and comply with other conditions.

People v. Roberts, No. 03SA367 (consolidated with No. 04PDJ061), 10/1/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Kenneth A. B. Roberts, Jr., attorney registration number 14275, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado, for a period of one year and one day. Suspension is retroactive to March 25, 2004.

Respondent pled guilty to a deferred judgment of second-degree misdemeanor theft. This conduct violated C.R.C.P. 251.5(b) (lawyer’s criminal misconduct) and Colo. RPC 8.4(b) (conduct adversely reflecting on lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness to practice law). Respondent also failed to self-report his conviction, in violation of C.R.C.P. 251.20(b).

In another matter, respondent was determined to have been negligent when he represented both a steering committee of pilots and individual pilots pursuing claims against their employer. This conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.15(a) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent also failed to deposit into his lawyer trust account a small portion of the fees paid by the steering committee before these funds were earned, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.15(a) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c).

Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.16(d) when he did not withdraw from representing the pilots once requested to do so. He violated Colo. RPC 1.16 and Colo. RPC 1.6 when he negligently revealed confidential information without client consent. In disclosing client information, respondent also disobeyed a court order, in violation of Colo. RPC 3.4(c). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of this proceeding.

People v. Sill, No. 04PDJ054, 10/1/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent James D. Sill, attorney registration number 17579, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of one year. All but nine months of the suspension are stayed upon successful completion of a three-month period of probation. Suspension is effective October 1, 2004.

Respondent entered a plea of guilty to one felony count of subscribing to a false federal income tax return. This conduct violated C.R.C.P. 251.5 and Colo. RPC 8.4(b). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of this proceeding and comply with other conditions.

People v. Thorburn, Nos. 03PDJ112 and 04PDJ082, 9/27/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Douglas C. Thorburn, attorney registration number 07340, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of one year and one day. Suspension is effective October 27, 2004.

Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.5(a) on several occasions by commingled client funds with personal funds in his operating account. By commingling these funds, he technically converted and misappropriated client money, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent commingled personal and client or third-party funds in his trust account and then transferred funds belonging to third parties from his trust account into his operating account, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.15(a).

Respondent also failed to respond to reasonable requests from a client for information, which violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a). Respondent was ordered to pay costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

© 2004 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provided via this World Wide Web server is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and may not be reproduced in any way or medium without permission. This material also is subject to the disclaimers at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/disclaimer.cfm?year=2004.


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