Vol. 30, No. 3
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, 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 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 115 for details), as well as on Lexis-Nexis at www.lexis.com/research and then 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
(December 28, 2000 through January 20, 2001)
People v. Espinoza, No. 99PDJ085, 1/18/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board suspended Pamela Michelle Espinoza from the practice of law for a period of six months, with the requirement of a formal reinstatement proceeding. Espinoza agreed to represent a client in a matter, accepted fees for her professional services, filed a responsive pleading with the court on behalf of the client, but failed to appear for the return date and failed to pay the docket fee. The court entered default judgment against Espinoza’s client. The client became aware of the judgment only when she received a writ of garnishment. Espinoza advised the client that the court had made a mistake; however, she did not disclose to the client that her failure to pay the docket fee caused the entry of default judgment. Deductions were made from the client’s paycheck under the writ of garnishment to the full amount of judgment. The client hired another attorney who requested the file from Espinoza and a return of the retainer. Espinoza failed to provide replacement counsel with the file and refused to refund any portion of the retainer. Espinoza’s neglect of the client’s matter constituted a violation of Colo. RPC 1.3; her failure to respond to the client’s inquiries and keep the client accurately informed of events as they transpired so that the client could make informed decisions constituted a violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and Colo. RPC 1.4(b); her failure to provide the file to replacement counsel and refusal to refund any portion of the retainer constituted a violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(d); and her concealing from her client the fact that her failure to pay the docket fee caused the entry of default and her affirmative misrepresentation that the entry of default was attributable to a court mistake constituted misrepresentation and dishonest acts, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Suspension was effective thirty-one days from the date of the Court’s Order, and respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.119.
Egbune v. People, No. 00PDJ058, 1/16/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("PDJ") and the Hearing Board denied Patrick A. Egbune’s petition for reinstatement to the practice of law. Egbune sought reinstatement from two periods of suspension. The one-year-and-one-day disciplinary suspension imposed against Egbune arose from two separate events of misconduct: in one matter, Egbune violated Colo. RPC 8.4(b) by inappropriately touching a female client in his office; in another matter, Egbune violated Colo. RPC 3.3(a)(1) by recklessly accusing a judge and opposing counsel of having improper ex parte communications. In another disciplinary matter, Egbune was suspended for six months commencing upon the expiration of his prior suspension for conduct which occurred both prior to and concurrently with the conduct for which the prior suspension was imposed. Egbune assumed responsibility for a contingent fee action from another attorney, knowing that the prior attorney claimed a portion of any recovery to satisfy his attorney fees. Egbune settled the action on terms which had been secured by the prior attorney, and disbursed funds resulting from the settlement without notifying the prior attorney or segregating the disputed funds in a trust account. Egbune was found to have violated Colo. RPC 1.15(a), Colo. RPC 1.15(b), Colo. RPC 1.15(c), Colo. RPC 1.5(a), and Colo. RPC 8.4(h). In addition to these disciplinary cases, Egbune was subject to a disability action commencing in 1996. In November 1997, Egbune was reinstated to the practice of law on the condition that his physician submit reports to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel every three months. Egbune initially complied with this condition but subsequently failed to continue to submit the reports. In the reinstatement proceeding, Egbune failed to establish rehabilitation. With regard to the serious misconduct involving sexual improprieties with a client and unsupported allegations of misconduct against a judge and opposing counsel, Egbune minimized the significance of his prior misconduct or directly denied it. Similarly, Egbune did not demonstrate rehabilitation from his mishandling of the contingent fee matter. No evidence was offered apart from Egbune’s own testimony in which he sought to minimize and justify his misconduct, from which it could be determined that he had made any successful effort to gain a greater understanding of his duties with regard to his client or others who claimed an interest in disputed funds. Because Egbune failed to demonstrate rehabilitation, the PDJ and Hearing Board declined to make a finding that he is fit to practice law. They considered that Egbune had failed to comply with a Supreme Court Order for a period of time, arising from his 1996 disability proceeding. Egbune’s petition for reinstatement was denied and he was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.121.
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(December 28, 2000 through January 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 and then clicking on States Legal U.S./Colorado/Cases and Court Rules/By Court/Colorado Supreme Court Disciplinary Opinions.]
People v. Griego, No. 00PDJ059, 1/02/01. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Michael Daniel Griego from the practice of law for a period of sixty days, with the full period of suspension stayed subject to conditions. Respondent failed to pay child support arrearages, but fully paid all amounts due prior to entering into the Conditional Admission of Misconduct. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings.
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