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TCL > November 2000 Issue > Summaries of Opinions

November 2000       Vol. 29, No. 11       Page  133
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 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.


Summary of Decisions Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(August 21, 2000 through September 20, 2000)

People v. Canty, No. 00PDJ008, 9/30/00. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge reinstated Patrick J. Canty to the practice of law effective August 30, 2000. (No written Opinion issued)

People v. Carvell, No. 99PDJ096, 9/11/00. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board suspended Respondent Robert A. Carvell for one year and one day. Respondent agreed to represent a client in a dissolution of marriage matter and accepted a retainer from the client. Thereafter, he entered his appearance, filed a response to the petition for dissolution, and moved for and attended a temporary orders hearing. Subsequently, for a five-month period, he failed to communicate with the client despite the client’s repeated calls. He failed to advise the client that he was changing office locations. When the client finally reached respondent, respondent set and canceled several appointments. Respondent failed to provide the court with his client’s financial information, failed to notify the client of the final orders hearing, and failed to appear on the client’s behalf. The court ruled adversely to the client’s interests. The client obtained new counsel but was unsuccessful in obtaining relief from the court’s order. Additionally, respondent failed to cooperate with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel in the investigation of this matter. Respondent’s neglect of his client’s matter constitutes a violation of Colo. RPC 1.3. His failure to keep appointments during a critical stage in the proceeding, and his general failure to communicate with his client over a five-month period, despite his client’s numerous attempts to contact him, constitutes a violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a), which rose to the level of abandonment. Respondent’s failure to take steps to protect his client’s interests upon termination constitutes a violation of Colo. RPC 1.16(d). His failure to participate in these proceedings constitutes grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(d) and its predecessor, C.R.C.P. 241.6(7). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.137.

Hohertz v. People, No. 00PDJ014, 8/31/00. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board reinstated Robert Melvin Hohertz to the practice of law, effective August 31, 2000, subject to certain conditions. Hohertz was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.139.

Johnson v. People, Nos. 99PDJ029, 99PDJ036, 00PDJ022, 00PDJ065, 9/8/00. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge reinstated Gary C. Johnson to the practice of law effective September 8, 2000. (No written Opinion issued)

People v. Lynch, No. 99PDJ034, 8/30/00. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board suspended Respondent Robert Karl Lynch for ninety days. Respondent entered into an attorney-client relationship and accepted funds from the client for respondent’s professional services in a contested post-dissolution of marriage matter, and partially obtained the desired result for his client. Thereafter, respondent failed to obey the court’s directive to submit a written order for the court’s signature, and failed to respond to phone calls from the client. Respondent’s actions necessitated that the client obtain replacement counsel and required the court to hold an additional hearing. Respondent’s actions violated Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.4(a), and Colo. RPC 8.4(d). Additionally, respondent failed to cooperate with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel in the investigation of this matter, which constitutes grounds for discipline, pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(d). Respondent also failed to provide a change of address to the Office of Attorney Registration as required by C.R.C.P. 227(A)(2)(b), and failed to pay his attorney registration fees for a two-year period, as required by C.R.C.P. 227(A)(1)(a). Respondent’s failure to meet these requirements constitutes grounds for discipline, pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(c). As a consequence of his failure to pay registration fees and provide notice of his change of address, respondent was under administrative suspension. Respondent’s period of suspension will commence upon termination of his administrative suspension. Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.142.

People v. Weisbard, No. 99PDJ072, 8/22/00. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and the Hearing Board suspended Respondent Robert J. Weisbard from the practice of law for a period of eighteen months. Default entered against respondent on the factual allegations and a number of the charges alleged in the Complaint. Respondent’s motion to set aside the default was denied by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge. Respondent’s sanction arose from his conduct concerning a dispute between respondent and his former partner. Contrary to respondent’s expectations, his former partner failed to share a contingent fee earned in a case, which, in part, predated their professional relationship. Respondent believed he was entitled to a portion of the proceeds. Respondent changed the locks on the firm’s offices and took control of the operating and trust accounts. Respondent’s actions had an impact on many clients. In four separate matters, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.15(b) by failing to promptly return the balance due on retainers owed to clients notwithstanding their request for the funds. In five separate matters, respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.15(b) by ignoring clients’ requests for their files and failing to promptly assemble and transmit them, resulting in injury to at least three clients. In two separate matters, respondent failed to return clients’ phone calls, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a). In one matter, respondent failed to file a timely response to a petition to revise a separation agreement in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3. Additionally, respondent violated Colo. RPC 4.5(a) by threatening to advance criminal and/or disciplinary charges against his prior partner in the course of a civil proceeding. Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.15(a) by commingling personal funds with client funds; he violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c) by retaining funds belonging to a client and attempting to settle a suit brought against him by the client with the funds as consideration for a settlement. Respondent failed to respond to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel’s investigation regarding three matters, thus violating C.R.C.P. 251.10(a). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.144.


Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(August 21, 2000 through September 20, 2000)

[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, (303) 825-2797.]

People v. Fajardo, 00PDJ055, 9/19/00. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Amended Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Elizabeth Renee Fajardo from the practice of law for a period of six months, with five months stayed followed by a two-year period of probation and subject to conditions. While a divorce action was pending and subsequently dismissed, respondent married another individual, constituting bigamy, resulting in a violation of CRS §18-6-201, a class six felony. Additionally, respondent admitted to the use of and addiction to cocaine for a number of years. Respondent has not used cocaine for more than five years. Respondent’s use of cocaine was a violation of CRS § 18-18-405, a class four felony. Respondent’s actions constitute grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(b) and separate violations of Colo. RPC 8.4(b). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding.

People v. Meiklejohn, No. 00PDJ036, 9/7/2000. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Scott Alvin Meiklejohn from the practice of law for a period of eighteen months, with six months stayed subject to conditions. Respondent met with the client regarding a medical malpractice matter, and informed the client that he wished to review her medical records prior to entering into a contingent fee agreement with her. Respondent requested the client’s medical records, stating in the letters to the health care providers that respondent’s law firm represented the client. Respondent copied the client on this correspondence. Respondent obtained the client’s medical records in August 1995, after which time, despite the client’s efforts, he failed to communicate with the client for a period of three years. Respondent’s failure to communicate with the client constituted a violation of Colo. RPC 1.4(a). Subsequently, the client obtained replacement counsel, who informed her that the statute of limitations had run on her claims. Respondent failed to advise the client of the statute of limitations and neglected to inform her whether or not he would file a civil action after reviewing the medical records, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3. In another matter, respondent entered into a contingency fee agreement with the client that provided that the client would pay respondent 20 percent of the amount collected before any subtraction of expenses and disbursements. Respondent failed to adhere to the terms of the contingent fee agreement and applied over 50 percent in two distributions to his attorney fees, contrary to the fee agreement and without permission from the client. Respondent failed to provide an accounting on how he arrived at the gross recovery figure on which he based his prepayment of attorney fees. Respondent’s actions constituted a violation of Colo. RPC 1.5(a) and Colo. RPC 1.15(b). In a separate matter, respondent received a disbursement from a settlement and negligently converted funds, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c); failed to keep the client’s property separate from other funds, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.15(c); and failed to promptly deliver the funds to the client, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.15(b). Respondent was ordered to pay costs of the proceeding.

People v. Shidler, No. 00PDJ057, 9/11/2000. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Michael J. Shidler from the practice of law for a period of thirty days, with the full period of suspension stayed during a one-year period of probation and subject to conditions. Respondent entered into a written fee agreement that was, in part, a contingency agreement, but failed to provide the client with the necessary written disclosures required under Chapter 23.3 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. Respondent failed to communicate with the client from June 1998 to March 1999 regarding the preparation and filing of the complaint. The client did not understand that respondent intended to file suit on her behalf. Subsequently, the client terminated respondent and respondent filed an attorney’s lien on the client’s property for his professional services. Respondent failed to return the file to the client upon termination. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.5(c), Colo. RPC 8.4(h), Colo. RPC 1.4(a), and Colo. RPC 1.16(d). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding.

People v. Southam, No. 00PDJ047, 9/11/2000. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Lynn W. Southam for a period of ninety days, with the full period of suspension stayed during a one-year period of probation and subject to conditions. Respondent entered into a contingent fee agreement with a client but failed to provide the client with the necessary written disclosures required under Chapter 23.3 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. After filing a complaint on behalf of the client, respondent failed to move for default judgment against one of the defendants who did not file a responsive pleading to the complaint. The court dismissed the claims against that defendant, against the professional defendants based on respondent’s failure to file certificates of review, and against the remaining defendants as a result of respondent’s failure to appear for the trial. Respondent’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.1, Colo. RPC 1.3, and Colo. RPC 1.5(c). Respondent was ordered to pay costs of the proceeding.

People v. Woodruff, No. 00PDJ064, 8/22/00. Attorney Regulation.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct in this reciprocal discipline action and suspended Suzanne Woodruff from the practice of law for ninety days. Respondent, who resides and practices in Hawaii, received a ninety-day suspension from the practice of law in the state of Hawaii for driving incidents in Hawaii. Respondent was charged in four separate incidents with driving under the influence of alcohol. She pled no contest to the first two incidents, no contest to inattention to driving in the third incident, and no contest to a fourth charge of driving under the influence and driving while license suspended. Respondent’s conduct constitutes grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.32, and violates Colo. RPC 8.4(b). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of these proceedings.

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