Vol. 30, No. 5
From the Courts
Colorado Disciplinary Cases
Summaries of 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. The summaries of the Opinions of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge 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 141 for details), as well as 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.
Summary of Decisions Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(February 21, 2001 through April 2, 2001)
People v. Owen, No. 00PDJ097, 3/5/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge readmitted Petitioner Patrick Owen (attorney registration number 03720) to the practice of law, effective March 5, 2001. (No Opinion Issued.)
People v. Schmeiser, No. 00PDJ028, 3/15/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("PDJ") and Hearing Board suspended Respondent Larry W. Schmeiser from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day. Respondent failed to respond to the complaint in this disciplinary action. The entry of default in this disciplinary action established violations of Colo. RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter), Colo. RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep the clients reasonably informed), Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (failure to surrender the clients’ property after termination), Colo. RPC 1.5(a) (charging an unreasonable fee), Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and provided grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(d) (failure to cooperate and respond to requests from the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel). Schmeiser engaged in a long-term pattern of misconduct involving neglect, failing to maintain contact with his clients, making misstatements to his clients regarding material facts, charging excessive fees for the minimal services he provided and, after termination by the clients, failing to either protect his clients’ interests or return documents and property belonging to the client. As a direct result of his misconduct, there was a substantial delay in the resolution of an estate matter, tax returns were filed late, penalties were assessed by the taxing authorities, and the clients suffered financial losses directly related to Schmeiser’s misconduct of at least $7,589.47. The PDJ and Hearing Board dismissed the alleged violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c) in claim one, holding that when an alleged violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (engaging in dishonesty, deceit, or misrepresentation) is premised upon the respondent’s making a specific factual statement, the evidence must show at least that the factual representation in the statement was false when made. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. p.125.
People v. Pautler, No. 00PDJ016, 4/2/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("PDJ") and Hearing Board suspended Respondent Mark C. Pautler from the practice of law for a period of three months, the entire period of suspension stayed during a twelve-month period of probation. While serving as chief deputy district attorney of Jefferson County, Colorado, Respondent Pautler engaged in professional misconduct and violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (lawyer engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation) and Colo. RPC 4.3 (communicating with unrepresented person) by knowingly and intentionally representing to an at-large murder suspect, William "Cody" Neal, that he was a public defender who would assist Neal in his effort to surrender. The presumptive sanction of suspension for violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c) and Colo. RPC 4.3 was mitigated by Pautler’s motive to apprehend Neal, his lack of a prior disciplinary record, and his full and free disclosure to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. As aggravating factors, the PDJ and Hearing Board considered: (1) Pautler’s secondary motive to keep Neal talking about his crimes without the benefit of requested legal representation and thereby gaining an advantage in subsequent legal proceedings; (2) his failure to promptly inform the public defender of his actions; and (3) his failure to recognize or even acknowledge the improper conduct in which he had engaged. Pautler was placed on twelve months’ probation during which he is required to take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, take twenty additional hours of ethics continuing legal education, and avoid any communications with unrepresented persons unless supervised by another attorney. Pautler was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. p.130.
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(February 21, 2001 through March 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. Brooks, No. 01PDJ008, 3/13/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent William T. Brooks from the practice of law for a period of nine months. Respondent engaged in a sexual relationship with his client, who had been a close friend since high school, for over an eight-year period while he represented the client and her husband. The client with whom respondent was involved was murdered by her husband. Respondent was interviewed by sheriff’s investigators concerning his knowledge of the clients. During the interview, respondent engaged in deceit with the sheriff’s investigators, misrepresenting the length of his relationship with the client. Eventually, evidence was uncovered which established the length of the relationship. When confronted with the evidence, respondent initially represented to defense counsel for the husband that the relationship had lasted only one night, and then admitted the length of the relationship. Respondent justified his deceit by stating that he was "in shock" at the time of the interview; however, he failed to correct the misrepresentation several months later. Respondent’s misrepresentation concerning his relationship with the client was a material fact in the defense of the husband in the criminal proceedings. Respondent’s misconduct violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c), Colo. RPC 8.4(d), and Colo. RPC 1.7(b). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding.
People v. Johnson, No. 01PDJ022, 3/13/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and publicly censured Respondent Rodney Gardner Johnson in this reciprocal discipline matter from the state of Arizona. Respondent acted as local bar counsel representing plaintiffs in a malpractice action in Arizona. Co-counsel for plaintiffs entered into a pretrial agreement stipulating to allow additional witnesses listed after the disclosure cutoff date and, in exchange, the plaintiff would voluntarily dismiss the case with prejudice against the defendant physician. Respondent was not informed of the agreement nor did he learn of it until the last days of the two-week trial. Respondent was instructed by co-counsel not to inform the trial court. The court discovered the agreement in a reference to it in another pending matter. The court sanctioned respondent and counsel of record to pay $15,000 to the clerk of the court for wrongfully expropriating the resources of the court for their own aims. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 3.3(a)(1) and Colo. RPC 4.1. Respondent was ordered to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
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