Vol. 35, No. 8
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
People v. Smith, No. 05PDJ072, 05/18/2006. Attorney Suspended.
Following a hearing pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.18, a Hearing Board suspended respondent Donald Keith Smith, attorney registration number 02542, from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day. Suspension is effective June 19, 2006.
The Hearing Board found by clear and convincing evidence that respondent knowingly violated duties owed to two of his clients and the legal profession when he failed to diligently pursue their interests and failed to effectively communicate with them. The Hearing Board also found by clear and convincing evidence that respondent maintained a “careless and slipshod” billing system and failed to advise his clients in writing of the basis of his fee within a reasonable time after the commencement of the representation. Finally, the Hearing Board found that respondent charged one of his clients an unreasonable fee in return for very little work and ordered him to pay restitution to this former client. Respondent’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.3; Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and (b); Colo. RPC 1.5(a) and (b); and Colo. RPC 8.4(c).
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admission 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, 1560 Broadway, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 866-6658; http://www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PJD/pdj.htm.
People v. Phillips, No. 06PDJ005, 06/14/2006. Attorney Disbarred.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a Conditional Admission of Misconduct submitted by the parties and disbarred respondent John D. Phillips, attorney registration number 09486, from the practice of law. Disbarment is effective July 15, 2006.
Respondent represented a client in a dissolution of marriage action without a written fee agreement. The same client paid respondent an advance retainer of $5,000. Later, respondent knowingly failed to deposit the monies into a trust account and, instead, used the funds for his own purposes.
This knowing conversion of client funds constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c). The Presiding Disciplinary Judge dismissed the remaining charges against respondent at the request of the parties.
People v. Smith, No. 04PDJ108, 06/06/2006. Attorney Suspended.
Following a hearing, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a Conditional Admission of Misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Respondent Matthew Samuel Smith, attorney registration number 22681, from the practice of law for a period of three years. Suspension is effective July 7, 2006.
Respondent practiced as a sole practitioner and admittedly carried an excessive caseload. As a result, he neglected several client matters and knowingly failed to communicate with a number of his clients. Respondent fully cooperated with the People in these proceedings, and the People in turn stated that they believe respondent lacked a malicious or selfish motive for his misconduct.
Respondent’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5. The misconduct also violated Colo. RPC 1.3; Colo. RPC 1.4(a); Colo. RPC 1.15(a); Colo. RPC 1.16(d); Colo. RPC 3.4(c); and Colo. RPC 8.4(c).
People v. Ungar, No. 05PDJ076, 06/08/2006. Attorney Suspension Stayed Upon Completion of Two-Year Probation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a Conditional Admission of Misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended respondent Bertrand Theodore Ungar, attorney registration number 09530, from the practice of law for a period of ninety days. The suspension is stayed upon the successful completion of a two-year period of probation, with conditions. Sanction is effective July 10, 2006.
Respondent performed securities work on behalf of his client, an investment company, in connection with the acquisition of controlling interests in shell companies that were to become the subject of reverse mergers. However, respondent failed to communicate the basis of his fee in writing to his client and never explicitly agreed on the contingencies of the fee agreement. A dispute as to the funds held by respondent in escrow later arose when he failed to keep all of the funds subject to this transaction in trust.
Respondent’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5. The misconduct also violated Colo. RPC 1.5(b); Colo. RPC 1.5(c); Colo. RPC 1.15(a); and Colo. RPC 1.15(b).
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