|The Colorado Lawyer|
Vol. 30, No. 4 [Page 101]
© 2001 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved.
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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 68 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
(January 21, 2001 through February 20, 2001)
People v. Daitzman, No. 00PDJ052, 1/24/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("PDJ") and Hearing Board suspended Respondent Lynn Daitzman from the practice of law for a period of three years. Respondent failed to respond to the complaint in this disciplinary action. The entry of default established that respondent neglected the legal matters of two clients, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3; she failed to communicate with clients in two separate matters, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a); and she failed to segregate the client’s funds from her own, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.15(a). In two matters, respondent knowingly disobeyed the rules of a tribunal, in violation of Colo. RPC 3.4(c). Respondent’s actions resulted in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and constituted a violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(d). Respondent’s failure to pay sums owed to her bank and failure to pay a judgment against her, causing the creditor to garnish her account, constituted a violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(h). Respondent’s failure to respond without good cause to the requests of the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel resulted in a violation of Colo. RPC 8.1(b). The testimony at the sanctions hearing provided additional evidence of the alleged violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(d). The PDJ and Hearing Board found, based on the additional evidence presented, that respondent abandoned her client, resulting in the termination of the attorney/ client relationship, which required the respondent to comply with the mandatory provisions of Colo. RPC 1.16(d). The PDJ and Hearing Board considered the injury to respondent’s clients to be serious, warranting disbarment; however, under Colorado law, the PDJ and Hearing Board determined a lengthy period of suspension rather than disbarment was the required sanction for a single instance of abandonment. Respondent was ordered to pay restitution and the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. p.103.
People v. Espinoza, No. 00PDJ044 (consolidated with 00PDJ051), 1/30/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("PDJ") and Hearing Board disbarred Respondent Pamela Michelle Espinoza from the practice of law. Respondent did not respond to either complaint in this consolidated matter. In one matter, after filing an answer and motion to dismiss to a petition for dissolution of marriage, respondent took no further action on behalf of her client, and failed to make contact with the client for a period of nearly six months, despite the client’s attempts to contact her. Respondent’s neglect and failure to communicate violated Colo. RPC 1.3 and Colo. RPC 1.4(a). The client terminated the attorney/client relationship and demanded a refund of her retainer. Respondent waited nearly forty-five days to reply, then stated that the dissolution of marriage had neared completion and that her work on the matter had consumed the retainer. Respondent knew at the time she made these statements that she had not performed any additional work on the case beyond filing the answer and motion to dismiss, and that the matter was not near completion. Respondent’s misrepresentation violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent’s billing statement inflated the amount of time spent on the client’s matter, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.5(a) by charging an unreasonable fee; respondent inflated the time spent on the client’s matter and refused to refund the excess to the client. In a separate matter, respondent agreed to prepare and execute a will for the client who intended to travel outside the country and wanted the instrument in place before her departure. Respondent delayed in preparing the will for several months, dodged attempts by the client to contact her, made an appointment and failed to appear for at least one scheduled conference and, when terminated by the client, succeeded in resurrecting the relationship by extending representations to complete the work in a timely manner and then failing to do so. After completing the preparation and execution of the will, respondent delayed in providing a copy to the client and closed her law practice without notice to the client. The magnitude of respondent’s neglect of the client’s matter rose to the level of abandonment. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.4(a), and Colo. RPC 1.16(d). Respondent’s failure to respond to the request for investigation or cooperate with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel violated Colo. RPC 8.1(b) and constitutes grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(d). In a separate matter, respondent assumed representation of a client in a criminal misdemeanor matter. After receiving a portion of her fee, she filed pleadings without informing the client of the actions she was taking on his behalf. She appeared at two hearings without advising the client that the hearings were taking place or advising him that his attendance was required, which resulted in an issuance of an arrest warrant. Knowing that the warrant had been issued, respondent failed to inform her client of its issuance. Respondent then closed her law practice and terminated the representation without notifying her client of either fact. Respondent made a material misrepresentation to the court that she was moving to withdraw because she was unable to contact her client during the pendency of criminal proceedings, in violation of Colo. RPC 3.3(a)(1) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c). The degree of respondent’s neglect of this client warranted a finding of abandonment. Respondent’s actions violated Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.4(a), and Colo. RPC 1.16(d). In the first two matters, respondent’s actions resulted in potential harm to the clients, whereas in the third matter, respondent’s actions resulted in serious harm to the client. Respondent was ordered to pay restitution to the clients and the costs of the proceedings. p.109.
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(January 21, 2001 through February 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 Eck, No. 01PDJ010, 1/30/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and publicly censured Respondent Sammy K. Eck in this reciprocal discipline matter from Washington State. Respondent set up a limited liability company and provided estate planning services to a married couple. When the relationship between the married clients deteriorated, their interests became adverse. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.7 by failing to withdraw from the representation or meet the required consultation and disclosure requirements set forth in Colo. RPC 1.7. Additionally, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.8(c) by preparing a trust amendment for one of his clients that included a bequest to himself.
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