Vol. 30, No. 9
From the Courts
Colorado Disciplinary Cases
Summaries of Opinions
Colorado Supreme Court
Presiding Disciplinary Judge
Summaries of Disciplinary Opinions
Summaries of opinions appear on a space-available basis. The summaries for the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and hearing board are prepared by the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, and the summaries for the Appellate Discipline Commission are prepared by the Office of the Appellate Discipline Commission. The summaries of the opinions of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and the Appellate Discipline Commission are provided as a service by the Colorado Bar Association and are not the official language of the Opinion. The Colorado Bar Association cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries.
Unless otherwise noted, full copies of the opinions follow the summaries pages. The summaries and full-text opinions are also available on the CBA homepage at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/index.htm. See page 112 for details
Summary of Decisions Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(June 25, 2001 through July 20, 2001)
People v. Cardwell, No. 00PDJ074, 7/11/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board suspended Respondent Jerry E. Cardwell from the practice of law for a period of three years, with eighteen months stayed. Respondent represented a client in a matter involving an alcohol-related driving offense and illegal use of a weapon charge pending in Jefferson County. Shortly thereafter, he represented the client in a matter pending in Arapahoe County involving another alcohol-related driving offense. Respondent negotiated a plea agreement for the client with the Arapahoe County District Attorney, but failed to inform the district attorney’s office of the Jefferson County case. Respondent and the client both signed a motion to settle the Arapahoe County charges by plea agreement, stating that the client had "no prior or pending alcohol-related driving offenses in this or any other state." While appearing before the Arapahoe County court, respondent and the client represented to the court that the client had no prior alcohol-related driving offenses. The client entered a plea of guilty to a reduced charge of DWAI—first offense—with respect to the Arapahoe County charges. The client was sentenced as a first time offender. Later, the court had to correct the improper plea and sentence entered on the basis of the misrepresentations. Respondent stated that he mistakenly believed the case in Jefferson County was not final at the time the client entered his plea in Arapahoe County. The Arapahoe County District Attorney subsequently brought charges against respondent, and respondent pled guilty to perjury in the second degree and improperly attempting to influence an official. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.1, Colo. RPC 8.4(d), Colo. RPC 1.2(d), Colo. RPC 3.3(a)(1), Colo. RPC 3.3(a)(2), Colo. RPC 4.1(b), Colo. RPC 8.4(c), and Colo. RPC 8.4(b), constituting grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(b). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings. p.125.
Johnson v. People, No. 00PDJ088, 7/16/01. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board reinstated Keith Dwight Johnson to the practice of law effective August 16, 2001. (Opinion issued). p.129.
People v. Tidwell, No. 00PDJ094, 6/25/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board disbarred Respondent Mark O. Tidwell from the practice of law. In one matter, respondent represented the client in post-decree proceedings following a dissolution of marriage. Initially, respondent performed the services he agreed to undertake, but when an additional dispute arose, respondent agreed to take specific actions on the client’s behalf and failed to do so. He failed to advise the client of the case for several months. Respondent represented the client in another matter but took no action on the client’s behalf, failed to appear in court, allowed a default judgment to enter against the client and failed to inform the client of the judgment. After he was terminated, respondent failed to withdraw in the pending cases and failed to return the client’s files upon request. Respondent’s misconduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.4(a), and Colo. RPC 1.16(d). In a matter involving another client, respondent accepted a retainer in an uncontested divorce matter, failed to proceed when requested to do so by the client, took no further action on the divorce, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3, and did not refund the remainder of the retainer when asked to do so by the client, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(d), constituting negligent conversion, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent represented another client in a bankruptcy proceeding, accepted a sum to pay for costs, did not take any action on the proceeding, failed to refund the client’s funds upon request, and did not communicate thereafter with the client. Respondent’s conduct constituted neglect, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3, failure to surrender property upon termination, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(d), and knowing conversion of client’s funds, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.132.
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(June 25, 2001 through July 20, 2001)
[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 Lexis-Nexis at 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. Gaass, No. 01PDJ041, 7/16/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent David P. Gaass from the practice of law for a period of six months, with five months stayed during a two-year period of probation subject to conditions. Respondent represented a client in a matter involving an automobile collision. He initially filed a complaint on the client’s behalf, and thereafter failed to file C.R.C.P. 26 disclosures, failed to prepare a case management order, and failed to set the matter for trial. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute and respondent did not file a response. The matter was dismissed. Respondent failed to advise the client that the motion to dismiss had been filed, that he had failed to respond, and that the court granted defendant’s motion. Respondent filed the same complaint again, but did not provide the client with a copy of the complaint, and did not notify the client that he had done so. Respondent failed to serve one of the defendants. When defendant filed a motion for sanctions for failure to prosecute in the prior case, respondent initially did not respond, the court granted the motion, respondent subsequently filed a response, but did not advise the client of the motion or the court’s order entering costs against the client. Respondent failed to provide complete disclosures when requested by defendant’s counsel. Respondent failed to respond to communication from defense counsel, did not timely pay the costs assessed against the client, failed to provide adequate disclosures, and failed to obtain adequate medical records and other documents from the client. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice for failure to prosecute and the court granted the motion. Respondent advised the client neither that the matter had initially been dismissed nor that it was dismissed a second time. Respondent’s knowing failure to adequately and accurately inform the client of the ongoing status of the matter constituted a violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent’s conduct constitutes numerous violations of Colo. RPC 3.2, Colo. RPC 1.3, and Colo. RPC 1.4(a). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding.
People v. Janssen, No. 01PDJ019, 7/17/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Steven Lynn Janssen from the practice of law for a period of thirty days, with the full period of suspension stayed, subject to a three-year period of probation subject to conditions. Respondent met with a client he previously had represented to discuss the client’s retention of respondent in a new matter. Respondent engaged in a heated argument with the client in the holding cell. Respondent had consumed alcohol before the meeting, a material breach of the terms of a prior diversion agreement. In a separate matter, as a result of a domestic dispute, respondent pled guilty to one count of criminal mischief and received an eighteen-month deferred sentence. Subsequently, respondent engaged in a second domestic dispute and pled guilty to one count of obstructing a peace officer, and received an eighteen month deferred sentence. On May 7, 2001, respondent pled guilty to a charge of driving while ability impaired, and was sentenced to three to eighteen months’ probation with conditions. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 8.4(h) and Colo. RPC 8.4(b), constituting grounds for discipline, pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(b). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding.
People v. Keilly, No. 01PDJ026, 7/18/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Michael S. Keilly from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day, with six months stayed during a two-year period of probation subject to conditions. While under administrative suspension for failure to meet continuing legal education requirements, respondent represented several clients in legal matters in violation of Colo. RPC 5.5. As a result of respondent’s appearance on behalf of his clients, the presiding judge was forced to modify deadlines in order to allow respondent’s clients an opportunity to retain counsel resulting in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and a violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(d). During the period of administrative suspension, respondent notified neither his clients nor parties in litigation of the suspension and did not file an affidavit with the Supreme Court as required by C.R.C.P. 251.28, in violation of C.R.C.P. 251.5(c) and Colo. RPC 3.4(c).
People v. Kudla, No. 01PDJ063, 7/15/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Michael J. Kudla from the practice of law for a period of ninety days, with the full period of suspension stayed subject to conditions. The clients hired the respondent to assist them in the sale of their interest in real estate. The respondent set up an irrevocable charitable remainder unitrust ("trust") for the sale proceeds. Respondent drafted the document, naming himself as trustee. A portion of the funds placed in the trust were invested in loans to individuals. Respondent prepared the notes to the individuals. Although respondent advised the clients of the loans and the borrowers within a few months of the transactions, respondent did not disclose that two of the borrowers were co-officers or directors in corporations with the respondent, in which he had no financial investment. Respondent did not check credit references on the borrowers. Three of the four borrowers defaulted on the loans. At the time respondent provided services to the clients, he was on disability inactive status. Respondent’s giving advice on the trust, drafting it, and preparing the promissory notes violated Colo. RPC 5.5(a). These actions constituted a violation of the order placing respondent on disability inactive status and a violation of Colo. RPC 3.4(c). Respondent’s engaging in investments for the trust, failing to check the creditworthiness of the borrowers, and failing to inform the clients that he had business associations with some of the borrowers from the trust violated Colo. RPC 8.4(h). At the time of the transaction, respondent suffered from physical and mental problems. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding.
People v. Watson, No. 01PDJ036, 7/17/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and disbarred Respondent Buron Keith Watson from the practice of law. In 1996, respondent pled guilty to the felony of obstruction of justice. Respondent destroyed or concealed documents which he knew or had reason to know were called for by the grand jury subpoena, and testified while under oath before the grand jury that all records in his possession that were responsive to the grand jury subpoena had been produced. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 8.4(b), constituting grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(b).
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