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TCL > February 2005 Issue > Summaries of Disciplinary Opinions

February 2005       Vol. 34, No. 2       Page  111
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. Hohertz, No. 03PDJ093, 10/13/04. Attorney Disbarred.

Upon conclusion of a sanctions hearing, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge ordered that Respondent Robert Melvin Hohertz, registration number 13910, be disbarred from the practice of law. Disbarment was effective November 31, 2004. Respondent also was ordered to pay restitution and the costs incurred in this proceeding.

It was established through the entry of default that, in several separate client matters, respondent failed to deliver contracted services; failed to return unearned fees; failed to provide an accounting; and failed to surrender fees, papers, and property belonging to clients. In addition, respondent violated a client confidence and deceived a client with untruthful assurances that he had taken steps to correct an inaccurate court order. Thus, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3, neglect of an entrusted legal matter; Colo. RPC 1.6(a), revealing information relating to representation; Colo. RPC 8.4(c), conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; Colo. RPC 1.15(b), failure to deliver client funds or render an accounting; and Colo. RPC 1.16(d), failure to protect client’s interest upon termination.

Respondent did not appear at the sanctions hearing or present evidence in mitigation. Aggravating factors included a history of prior discipline, multiple offenses, vulnerable victims, substantial experience in the law, and indifference to making restitution. The Hearing Board found a pattern of client neglect and abandonment, as well as a pattern of deceit. The Hearing Board determined that respondent’s continued misconduct, along with the absence of corrective action, constitutes a danger to the public.

 

People v. Stoorman, No. 04PDJ004, 11/28/04. Action Dismissed With Prejudice.

The complainant is the bankruptcy trustee for one of respondent’s former clients. The client had obtained a judgment in her case, but she assigned it to respondent in order to pay the attorney fees incurred in the process. Subsequently, the client filed for bankruptcy. It was alleged in this action that after learning of the bankruptcy, respondent created and back-dated an attorney’s letter-lien, placed it in the district court file, and thereafter sought to use it to defraud the bankruptcy court.

The Hearing Board concluded that the People did not prove by clear and convincing evidence, as required by C.R.C.P. 251.18(d), that respondent committed fraud or otherwise violated the Rules of Professional Conduct as charged. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge granted Respondent Samuel J. Stoorman’s Motion for Involuntary Dismissal under C.R.C.P. 41(b)(1). The action was dismissed with prejudice.

 

 

People v. Todd, No. 99PDJ077 (consolidated with 99PDJ110 & 00PDJ080), 10/14/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge issued an Order and Notice of Suspension, revoking disciplinary probation and suspending Respondent Vincent C. Todd, registration number 12955, from the practice of law for a period of eleven months and one day. Suspension was effective November 13, 2004. Respondent was originally suspended October 9, 2000, for one year and one day, with all but thirty days stayed pending successful completion of a two-year period of probation, based on a Conditional Admission.

This proceeding concerns respondent’s misconduct in two matters. In one matter, respondent failed to appear in bankruptcy court, and subsequently failed to comply with numerous bankruptcy court orders and the sanctions imposed as a result. He also did not respond to the Office of Attorney Regulation’s request for information. Thus, respondent violated Colo. RPC 3.4(c), knowing violation of a rule of a tribunal; and C.R.C.P. 251.10, failure to file written response to allegations.

In another matter, respondent neglected the defense of a law firm in a civil suit, while misrepresenting the status of the case to the client firm. His misconduct resulted in a default judgment against the firm. Accordingly, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3, neglect of an entrusted legal matter; Colo. RPC 1.4(a), failure to keep client informed; Colo. RPC 3.4(c), knowing violation of a rule of a tribunal; Colo. RPC 8.4(c), conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and Colo. RPC 1.15(b), failure to return client file upon request.

Respondent appealed the Presiding Disciplinary Judge’s Order Revoking Probation and Reinstatement. On October 13, 2004, the Supreme Court upheld the sanction imposed.

 

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

(Through December 20, 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.coloradosupremecourt.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. Blunt, No. 04PDJ024. 10/26/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Peter Howe Blunt, attorney registration number 05408, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of three years. Suspension was effective November 26, 2004.

Respondent was suspended from the practice of law in Colorado, effective March 3, 1998, for one year and one day. He did not apply for reinstatement and remained suspended for more than five years. Respondent moved to California in 1998 and started a business there that places lawyers in corporate legal departments. In 2001, he returned to Colorado, where he continued to operate the legal placement service.

Several clients hired respondent, through his business, to do work not connected with legal placement services. The work included doing legal research, providing strategic advice, and drafting documents. This conduct violated Colo. RPC 5.5(a) ( lawyer shall not practice law in jurisdiction where doing so violates regulations of legal profession in that jurisdiction). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs incurred in this proceeding.

 

People v. Donaldson, No. 04PDJ104, 11/29/04. Attorney Suspension Stayed Pending Completion of Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent James F. Donaldson, registration number 8951, from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day. The suspension is stayed pending successful completion of a three-year period of probation. The probation was effective December 30, 2004.

This proceeding arises out of respondent’s representation of a corporate defendant in a civil matter. In that case, respondent’s misconduct included: failure to assert appropriate affirmative defenses and counterclaims; failure to provide disclosures; failure to notify the client of and respond to discovery requests; failure to timely notify the client of a scheduled settlement conference and a deposition; making false statement(s) at the deposition; failure to respond to motions for summary judgment and sanctions; failure to prepare and submit trial materials; and failure to attend the trial call.

At the time, respondent suffered from health problems, but did not acknowledge the effect on his work. The client ultimately paid $22,641.01 for attorney fees incurred by the opposing party as a result of respondent’s inaction. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3, neglect of a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer; Colo. RPC 1.4, failure to keep client reasonably informed or comply with reasonable requests for information; and Colo. RPC 1.16(a)(2), failure to withdraw from representation when physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer’s ability to represent client.

Conditions of probation include payment of restitution and a practice audit/monitor. In addition, respondent was ordered to pay costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

 

People v. Gomez, No. 04PDJ100, 11/05/04. Attorney Suspension Stayed Pending Completion of Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Ernest Gomez, attorney registration number 26321, from the practice of law in the state of Colorado for a period of thirty days, all stayed upon successful completion of a one-year period of probation. The sanction was effective December 5, 2004.

In violation of Colorado RPC 1.15 (b), (g), and (l), respondent overdrew his trust account when he wrote checks to himself for fees he claimed to have earned from clients with whom he had no fee agreements. In another matter, he deposited an unearned retainer directly into his operating account, thereby exercising unauthorized dominion over these funds, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.15(a).

Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3 when he failed to update his own and a client’s address with opposing counsel. He violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a) when he failed to return client calls or appear at scheduled meetings. He also violated Colo. RPC 1.15(b) when, as requested by a client, he failed to provide an accounting. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs incurred in this proceeding and comply with other conditions.

 

People v. Hall, No. 04PDJ094, 11/29/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Kenneth L. Hall, registration number 16528, from the practice of law for a period of forty days. Suspension was effective December 30, 2004.

This is a reciprocal discipline case. Respondent lives and practices in Nevada, where he pled guilty to gross misdemeanor child abuse and neglect. As a result of this conviction, the Nevada Supreme Court suspended respondent from the practice of law for a period of forty days. Under C.R.C.P. 251.21(a), a final adjudication of misconduct subjecting an attorney to discipline in another jurisdiction conclusively establishes the misconduct in Colorado disciplinary proceedings. Therefore, respondent violated Colo. RPC 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects).

In accordance with C.R.C.P. 251.21(d), the sanction is the same as imposed in the foreign jurisdiction. In addition, respondent was ordered to pay costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

 

People v. Martillaro, No. 04PDJ067, 11/29/04. Attorney Suspension Stayed Pending Successful Completion of Two-Year Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Charles F. Martillaro, registration number 30062, from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day, effective December 30, 2004. Six months and one day of the suspension is stayed, pending successful completion of a two-year period of probation.

This proceeding arises out of respondent’s neglect of ten client matters while receiving treatment for drug addiction and while dealing with depression after treatment. Specifically, instead of finding adequate substitute counsel or withdrawing, respondent simply did not take necessary action on cases, return phone calls, attend meetings, or properly handle files. Therefore, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3, neglect of an entrusted legal matter; Colo. RPC 1.4(a), failure to communicate with client; Colo. RPC 1.15(b), failure to provide an accounting upon request; and Colo. RPC 1.16, failure to withdraw in a timely fashion.

Respondent is currently on inactive disability status, and probation will begin after reinstatement, upon proof that respondent is no longer disabled. Conditions of probation include a practice monitor. Respondent also was ordered to pay costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

 

People v. McAllister, No. 04PDJ103, 11/29/04. Attorney Publicly Censured.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and publicly censured Respondent Robert T. McAllister, registration number 10350. In addition, respondent was ordered to attend a one-day ethics course and to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

This proceeding arises out of respondent’s refusal to pay a consultant for services rendered in a case prosecuted by respondent. The consultant brought suit in federal court to collect her fees. The jury found in favor of the consultant, and against respondent and his firm. The verdict included a special finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that respondent had knowingly made a false representation of material fact to induce the consultant to take action.

Accordingly, respondent violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation). Respondent has no prior discipline and has rectified the consequences of his misconduct by satisfying the judgment against him.

 

People v. Pareja, No. 04PDJ107, 11/29/04. Attorney Suspension Stayed Pending Successful Completion of One-Year Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Gary P. Pareja, registration number 10277, from the practice of law for a period of thirty days. The suspension is stayed pending successful completion of a one-year period of probation. Sanction is effective December 30, 2004. Respondent also was ordered to pay costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding, pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.32(d).

This proceeding arises out of respondent’s failure to pay his attorney registration fee in accordance with C.R.C.P. 227A. As a result, his license to practice law was administratively suspended. However, respondent did not receive a copy of the suspension order, because he had not updated his home and business addresses as required by C.R.C.P. 227A(2)(b).

While on administrative suspension, respondent appeared as attorney of record in more than fifty cases. Thus, respondent violated Colo. RPC 3.4(c), knowing violation of a rule of a tribunal; and Colo. RPC 8.4(d), conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

 

People v. Reid, No. 04PDJ101, 11/29/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Dennis W. Reid, registration number 29799, from the practice of law for a period of six months, effective December 30, 2004. Respondent also is required to establish compliance with all terms and conditions ordered by the state of Michigan.

This is a reciprocal discipline case. Respondent lives and practices in Michigan. The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board suspended respondent for engaging in fraud and deceit in connection with his representation of an estate in probate (charging the estate for services not received), and his representation of a criminal defendant (fabricating a vehicle transfer in order to defy a court order, while avoiding the payment of transfer taxes). Respondent also attempted to conceal his wrongdoing from the grievance body.

Under C.R.C.P. 251.21(a), a final adjudication of misconduct subjecting an attorney to discipline in another jurisdiction conclusively establishes the misconduct in Colorado disciplinary proceedings. Therefore, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.5(a), unreasonable fees; Colo. RPC 1.5(b), failure to communicate fee basis in writing; and Colo. RPC 8.4(c), conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; as well as Colo. RPC 3.3(a)(1), 4.1; and Colo. RPC 8.1(a), false statements to a tribunal, to a third person in the course of representing a client, and in connection with a disciplinary matter.

In accordance with C.R.C.P. 251.21(d), the sanction is the same as imposed in the foreign jurisdiction. In addition, respondent was ordered to pay costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

 

People v. Stanard, No. 04PDJ014, 10/28/04. Attorney Suspension Stayed Upon Successful Completion of Two-Year Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Mark A. Stanard, attorney registration number 11783, from the practice of law effective, December 10, 2004, for a period of one year, eleven months. The suspension is stayed upon successful completion of a two-year period of probation.

Respondent, who was extremely intoxicated, was involved in a serious physical altercation with a friend. The friend was badly injured in the incident. Respondent pled guilty to third-degree assault. His conduct violated Colo. RPC 8.4(b). He was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding and comply with other conditions.

 

People v. Todd, Nos. 02PDJ096 & 03PDJ090, 10/26/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Vincent C. Todd, registration number 12955, from the practice of law for a period of eleven months and one day, effective November 13, 2004, concurrent with 99PDJ077. In addition, respondent was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

This proceeding arose after respondent mishandled two client matters, one relating to a restraining order issued against a client and the other relating to a debt collection against a client. Respondent’s misconduct included: failure to respond to dispositive motions; failure to file an opening brief in an appellate case; failure to notify the court and opposing counsel of any decision not to proceed; failure to appear at a hearing; failure to attempt to rectify misconduct; and failure to respond to a show cause order. In addition, respondent did not notify opposing counsel in one matter that his license had been suspended in 99PDJ077. He also omitted the same matter in his affidavit for reinstatement. Therefore, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.1, failure to provide competent representation; Colo. RPC 1.3, neglect of an entrusted legal matter; Colo. RPC 3.2, failure to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation; Colo. RPC 3.4(c), knowing violation of the rules of a tribunal; Colo. RPC 8.4(d), conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and C.R.C.P. 251.5(c), violation of rules regarding attorney discipline.

 

People v. Weiss, No. 04PDJ079, 11/5/04. Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the party’s Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Randy Alan Weiss, attorney registration number19529, for a period of three years, one year stayed upon successful completion of a one-year period of probation. Sanction was effective December 5, 2004.

In this reciprocal discipline case, respondent was suspended from the practice of law in the District of Columbia for illegally diverting more than $600,000 from his law firm. Respondent’s conduct violated District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) and (c) (lawyer prohibited from engaging in criminal acts reflecting adversely on honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness and other conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

In mitigation, respondent notified his law firm and Bar counsel of the misappropriation of funds, made full restitution, and entered into extended therapy. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding and comply with other conditions.

 

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