The Colorado Lawyer
Vol. 29, No. 10 [Page 121]
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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, 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
(July 21, 2000, through August 20, 2000)
People v. Andersen, No. 99PDJ033 (consolidated with Nos. 99PDJ066 & 99PDJ126), 7/21/00. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board disbarred Respondent Michael P. Andersen for forgery and conversion of funds when Andersen forged a check drawn on his law firm employer’s trust account in the amount of $3,400, and used the trust account funds for his own benefit. Andersen’s committing forgery provides grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(b), and violates Colo. RPC 8.4(b) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c); Andersen’s conversion of funds constitutes a violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). While under the influence of alcohol, Andersen took a vehicle from a dealership in Las Vegas and drove it to Los Angeles, California. Andersen pled no contest to the felony of taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, which provides grounds for discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5(b), and constitutes a violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(b) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c). Additionally, Andersen failed in four separate matters to appear at scheduled hearings on behalf of clients, neglected his clients’ matters, and ignored court orders, which constitute four separate violations of Colo. RPC 1.3 and Colo. RPC 8.4(d). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.123.
Goff v. People, No. 00PDJ023, 8/4/00. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("PDJ") and the Hearing Board denied Richard J. Goff’s petition for reinstatement to the practice of law. Pursuant to a Conditional Admission of Misconduct, Goff had been suspended for a six-month period, with conditions, including a practice monitor and the implementation of prophylactic safeguards with regard to petitioner’s law office management. The Conditional Admission of Misconduct also required that Goff undergo a reinstatement hearing. The PDJ and Hearing Board found that Goff failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he was rehabilitated or was fit to practice law. The PDJ and Hearing Board found that Goff’s prior misconduct arose both from a lack of professional judgment and shortcomings in petitioner’s character and integrity, as well as shortcomings in the management of his professional environment. The mere implementation of prophylactic safeguards in the law office, which were ordered and agreed to by the parties in the Conditional Admission of Misconduct, and the placement of a practice monitor following reinstatement, fell short of demonstrating rehabilitation from the inadequacies that gave rise to the prior misconduct. In a reinstatement hearing, the petitioner must demonstrate that he or she has been rehabilitated prior to the reinstatement of that attorney’s license to practice law. In this case, petitioner failed to demonstrate rehabilitation in the three areas of prior misconduct: petitioner’s willingness to shortcut processes and procedures proven over time to be necessary for proper representation of clients; petitioner’s propensity to undertake representation of clients whose legal difficulties fell in areas of the law in which petitioner lacked basic competency; and petitioner’s failure to comply with court orders and rulings with which petitioner disagreed. Goff was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding. p.126.
People v. Sheffer, No. GC98A112 (consolidated with No. GC98A113), 7/20/00. Attorney Regulation.
This matter was remanded from the Appellate Discipline Commission ("ADC"), Case No. 99AD005, solely for the purpose of imposing discipline consistent with the ADC’s ruling. On remand, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board suspended Respondent Mary Jody Sheffer from the practice of law for a period of sixty days, with the full sixty days stayed pending respondent’s completion of a twelve-month period of probation subject to conditions. (No Opinion issued.)
People v. Loyd, No. GC94A054 (consolidated with Nos. GC94A70 & 99PDJ117), 8/14/00. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge reinstated Barbara C. Loyd n/k/a Barbara C. Larson to the practice of law effective September 6, 2000. (No Opinion issued.)
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(June 21, 2000 through July 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. Fischer, No. 00PDJ030, 8/14/00. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Gene E. Fischer from the practice of law for a period of thirty days, with thirty days stayed, followed by a two-year period of probation with conditions. Respondent entered into a business transaction with his clients and acquired a security or pecuniary interest adverse to the clients. Respondent failed to recommend to the clients that they seek the advice of outside counsel, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.8(a). Respondent was ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings.
People v. Cousins, No. 99PDJ115, 8/17/00. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties’ Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Kevin M. Cousins from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day. Respondent agreed to represent a client, filed a summons and complaint on the client’s behalf, and thereafter took no action in the case. Respondent informed the client that the matter was set for trial when, in fact, it was not. Respondent failed to communicate with the client and failed to keep the client reasonably informed of the status of the case. Respondent failed to file a motion to withdraw and, upon termination, failed to take steps to protect the client’s interests. Respondent’s misconduct violated Colo. RPC 1.2(a), Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.4(a), Colo. RPC 1.16(d), Colo. RPC 3.2, and Colo. RPC 8.4(c). In a separate matter, respondent agreed to represent a client in a criminal matter. Respondent caused a motions hearing and a trial date to be continued based on the fact that respondent was unprepared to go forward. Respondent failed to appear on behalf of his client for the rescheduled trial. Respondent’s misconduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.4(a), and Colo. RPC 8.4(d). In another matter, respondent agreed to represent a client in a dissolution of marriage action. Respondent waited four months to participate in the action, despite the client’s repeated requests. Respondent failed to serve a motion for contempt on the client’s husband; consequently, the husband failed to appear at the contempt hearing. Respondent also failed to appear and the court subsequently issued two show cause orders regarding respondent’s failure to appear. Respondent did not appear as ordered. Respondent’s misconduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.4, Colo. RPC 1.16(d), and Colo. RPC 8.4(d). Respondent was ordered to pay costs of the proceeding.
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