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TCL > June 2005 Issue > Summaries of Disciplinary Opinions

The Colorado Lawyer
June 2005
Vol. 34, No. 6 [Page  137]

© 2005 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 April 2005)

People v. Chastain, No. 04PDJ030, 3/14/2005. Attorney Disbarred.

Upon conclusion of a sanctions hearing, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("PDJ") disbarred respondent Randall M. Chastain, attorney registration number 6058, from the practice of law, effective April 14, 2005. This is a reciprocal discipline case. The South Carolina Supreme Court disbarred respondent for engaging in a "pattern of misconduct" and for working in a capacity "connected with the law" while his license was under suspension. On that basis, the People initiated this proceeding.

Under C.R.C.P. 251.21, the same discipline must be imposed in Colorado as in the foreign jurisdiction, unless it would be improper to do so based on, for example, a lack of due process, infirm proof, or grave injustice. Respondent did not appear or challenge the validity of the South Carolina disbarment order. Thus, in accordance with the rules for reciprocal discipline, the PDJ imposed an identical sanction. In addition, respondent was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding. A copy of the South Carolina disbarment order is available at the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge. p.141.

People v. Parsley, No. 04PDJ058, 3/10/2005. Attorney Disbarred.

Upon conclusion of a sanctions hearing, the PDJ disbarred respondent Jeffrey A. Parsley, attorney registration number 8069, from the practice of law, effective April 10, 2005. Respondent also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

It was established through the entry of default that respondent knowingly made material false statements in applying for a loan. Thereby, he engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain $180,000. This conduct constitutes a felony under federal and state law. Accordingly, 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; Colo. RPC 8.4(c), conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and C.R.C.P. 251.5(b), conduct that violates criminal laws of Colorado or the United States.

Disbarment is the presumptive sanction for the commission of a serious crime involving dishonesty. The PDJ found a number of aggravating factors, including prior discipline, a dishonest and selfish motive, substantial experience in the practice of law, and indifference to making restitution. Respondent did not appear or present any evidence in mitigation. p.142.

People v. Ra’shadd, No. 04PDJ023, 3/10/2005. Attorney Disbarred.

Upon conclusion of a sanctions hearing, the Hearing Board disbarred respondent Giorgio D. Ra’shadd, attorney registration number 30417, from the practice of law, effective April 10, 2005. It was established by summary judgment that respondent converted client funds from a probate estate; failed to pay court-ordered child support, while misrepresenting his child support obligation to the Colorado Supreme Court; and placed an advertisement for his services containing false information. Thus, respondent violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c), conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; Colo. RPC 3.4(c), knowing failure to obey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal; and Colo. RPC 7.1(a), making a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.

Respondent has no prior discipline and testified about his medical issues, however the Hearing Board found that the dishonest and selfish nature of his conduct, combined with a refusal to acknowledge that it was wrongful, warranted the presumptive sanction of disbarment. Respondent also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding. p.144.

People v. Rider, No. 04PDJ077, 4/13/2005. Amended Opinion and Order Imposing Sanctions.

The Hearing Board amended its January 3, 2005 Opinion and Order Imposing Sanctions, which disbarred respondent Lawrence C. Rider, attorney registration number 771, from the practice of law. In the original Opinion, the Hearing Board specifically found, based on the evidence presented, that respondent had no disciplinary history. Since that time, evidence of a prior private censure has surfaced. Consequently, the parties jointly requested that the Hearing Board amend its Opinion to reflect the fact of prior discipline. Accordingly, the Amended Opinion and Order Imposing Sanctions is intended to replace the January 3, 2005 Opinion. p.147.


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

(Through April 2005)

[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, Nos. 03PDJ047, 04PDJ116, 05PDJ015, and 05PDJ031, 4/4/2005. Attorney Suspended for One Year and One Day.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Charles A. Agbakwu, Sr., attorney registration number 24447, from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day, effective May 5, 2005. Respondent failed to comply with the billing audit condition of his probation in case number 03PDJ047. Respondent failed to pay court-ordered child support, misrepresented the status of his child support obligation to the Colorado Supreme Court, and pled guilty to contempt. Respondent seriously neglected the cases of two clients, which adversely affected their rights. Thus, respondent violated Colo. RPC 3.4(c), knowing disobedience of an obligation under the rules of a tribunal; Colo. RPC 8.4(c), conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; Colo. RPC 8.4(d), conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; Colo. RPC 1.3, neglect of an entrusted legal matter; and Colo. RPC 1.4(a), failure to keep client reasonably informed.

Conditions of reinstatement include payment of all child support and restitution. Respondent also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

People v. Curtis, No. 05PDJ029, 4/4, 4/5, and 4/7/2005. Majority of Attorney Suspension Stayed Upon Successful Completion of Three-Year Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Carol L. Curtis, attorney registration number 11020, from the practice of law for six months, effective May 30, 2005. Five months of the suspension are stayed pending successful completion of a three-year period of probation.

This proceeding arises out of respondent’s struggle with alcoholism, resulting in multiple arrests, charges, and convictions. Respondent has pled guilty to a number of domestic violence and driving violations, including driving under the influence of alcohol. Respondent failed to report her convictions to the Office of Attorney Regulation. Thus, respondent violated C.R.C.P. 251.5, conduct that violates the criminal laws of this state; Colo. RPC 8.4(b), commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness to practice law in other respects; Colo. RPC 8.4(c), conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and Colo. RPC 3.4(c), knowing disobedience of an obligation under the rules of a tribunal, specifically C.R.C.P. 251.20(b).

Conditions of probation include participation in any treatment or support program recommended by an evaluator and abstention from alcohol or drugs. Respondent also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

People v. Finch, No. 00PDJ079 (consolidated with Nos. 00PDJ083, 01PDJ107, 02PDJ011, and 02PDJ016), 3/22/2005. Attorney Suspended for One Year and One Day.

The PDJ approved the Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Janice M. Finch, attorney registration number 12268, from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day. Suspension is effective April 22, 2005.

This proceeding arises out of nearly twenty matters. Respondent’s misconduct included neglect of entrusted legal matters, failure to communicate with clients and subsequent counsel, misrepresentations to clients, false statements that retainers were non-refundable, mishandling and personal use of client funds, failure to return client files and unearned funds upon request, failure to pay for litigation-related services even after collecting the funds from clients, and failure to timely notify potential client of decision to decline representation. Thus, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.15(b), 1.16(d), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).

Respondent’s misconduct was caused by a physical and mental disability; she has little recollection of these events. Since that time, respondent has not practiced law, and she has been cooperative and expressed remorse. In addition, she has made a good faith effort to make restitution, payment of which is an express condition of reinstatement. Respondent also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

People v. Lawrence, No. 04PDJ041 (consolidated with No. 04PDJ059), 4/4/2005. Attorney Suspension Stayed Pending Completion of Two-Year Probation.

The PDJ approved the Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Michael R. Lawrence, attorney registration number 24958, from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day, effective May 5, 2005. The entire suspension is stayed pending successful completion of a two-year period of probation.

The proceeding arises out of respondent’s representation in four civil matters. In each of these matters, respondent failed to communicate with clients and others involved, failed to file required items with the court (e.g., responses to motions, discovery disclosures, case management orders), failed to appear in court, failed to give notice of withdrawal, and otherwise failed to take appropriate steps to protect his clients’ rights. His actions have resulted in the entry of sanctions against his clients and himself.

In one case in which respondent became personally liable, he did not answer post-judgment interrogatories and did not appear on a contempt citation. Thus, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3, neglect of an entrusted legal matter; Colo. RPC 1.4(a), failure to communicate and failure to keep client reasonably informed; Colo. RPC 1.4(b), failure to explain matters to permit informed decisions; Colo. RPC 3.4(c), knowing disobedience of an obligation under the rules of a tribunal; and Colo. RPC 8.4(d), conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. Most of these incidents occurred after respondent left a firm and began representing clients on his own while clerking for Judge Frank Martinez.

Conditions of probation include a practice monitor and payment of restitution. Respondent also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

People v. Preblud, No. 04PDJ114, 3/22/2005. Attorney Suspended for Ten Months.

The PDJ approved the Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Arlan I. Preblud, attorney registration number 2030, from the practice of law for ten months. Suspension is effective May 21, 2005.

This proceeding arises out of respondent’s romantic involvement with a vulnerable domestic relations client, which followed the establishment of an attorney-client relationship and continued during the legal representation. While respondent and the client initially denied the conduct to disciplinary authorities, respondent has expressed remorse. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.7(b), representation of a client when the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer’s own interests; Colo. RPC 8.4(h), conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law; and Colo. RPC 8.4(a), violation of the rules of professional conduct, or doing so through the act of another.

During his suspension, respondent is subject to certain conditions, including therapy and acquiring continuing legal education credits in domestic relations law. When the suspension period has ended, respondent must file a petition for reinstatement and is subject to reinstatement proceedings pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.29(c)-(j). Respondent also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

People v. Skinner, No. 05PDJ025, 4/4/2005. Attorney Publicly Censured.

The PDJ approved the Conditional Admission of Misconduct and publicly censured respondent H. Craig Skinner, attorney registration number 17990, on condition that he successfully complete a one-day ethics course. This proceeding arises out of respondent’s attempt to reduce Medicare and Medicaid liens for a client by representing that the client owed respondent a contingency fee and costs from settlement proceeds on the client’s personal injury case. In fact, respondent had gratuitously agreed not to collect these amounts from the client. Respondent later corrected his misstatements.

Respondent violated Colo. RPC 4.1(a), knowingly making a false or misleading statement of fact to a third person in the course of representing a client; and Colo. RPC 8.4(c), conduct involving or misrepresentation. He also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

People v. Smith, No. 04PDJ095, 4/19/2005. Attorney Suspension Stayed Pending Completion of Two-Year Probation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended respondent Donald Keith Smith, attorney registration number 2542, from the practice of law for a period of ninety days, effective May 20, 2005. The entire suspension is stayed pending successful completion of a two-year period of probation.

This proceeding arises out of four client matters. In the first matter, respondent improperly entered into a business transaction with his clients. In the second matter, respondent neglected a criminal client’s case by failing to communicate, failing to appear, and failing to keep the client reasonably informed. In the third matter, respondent was hired by an employer to handle a criminal citation issued to an employee, and respondent failed to communicate with the client throughout the representation. In the fourth matter, respondent did not comply with the requirements for obtaining relief for a civil client and failed to properly supervise his staff, which resulted in dismissal of the case and the appeal.

Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3, neglect of an entrusted legal matter; Colo. RPC 1.4, failure to keep client reasonably informed/provide explanations for informed decisions; Colo. RPC 1.1, incompetent representation; and Colo. RPC 5.3(b), failure to make reasonable efforts to ensure that subordinate non-lawyer’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of a lawyer. Conditions of probation include payment of restitution and law practice audits. Respondent also was ordered to pay the costs incurred in conjunction with this proceeding.

© 2005 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=2005.


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