The Colorado Lawyer
Vol. 42, No. 8 [Page 149]
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From the Courts
Colorado Disciplinary Cases
Disciplinary Case Summaries
The summaries of disciplinary case Opinions and Conditional Admissions of Misconduct are prepared by the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge (PDJ) and are provided as a service by the Colorado Bar Association (CBA). The CBA cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries. The full text of the disciplinary Opinions, when published by the PDJ, follows the summaries page(s). The summaries and full-text Opinions also are accessible from the CBA website: www.cobar.org (click on "Opinions/Rules/Statutes"). Opinions, including exhibits, complaints, amended complaints, and summaries, also are available at the PDJ website, www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PDJ/pdj.htm, and on LexisNexis.®
Summary of Decision Issued by the PDJ
No.12PDJ012. People v. Gargano. 07/06/2012. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ suspended Paul A. Gargano, attorney registration number 10467, for three years. The suspension was effective July 6, 2012.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts found that Gargano failed to explain to a client the basis for his fee; neglected to place disputed funds in escrow; did not credit a retainer to his client; filed a frivolous lawsuit; knowingly made false statements; knowingly caused or permitted a client’s affidavits to be prepared or filed despite their falsity; and intentionally gave false, misleading, or deceitful testimony at a deposition. His misconduct violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(b); 1.15(b)(2)(ii), (c), and (d); 3.1; 3.3(a)(1) and (4); 3.4(b); and 8.4(c), (d), and (h). In its ruling issued November 21, 2011, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed a lower tribunal’s order indefinitely suspending Gargano from the practice of law, with the opportunity to petition for reinstatement four years and nine months from the effective date of the order of suspension. The PDJ concluded in an order granting summary judgment that Gargano’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of reciprocal discipline in Colorado pursuant to CRCP 251.21(e).
Summaries of Decisions Regarding
Conditional Admission of Misconduct Issued by the PDJ
The PDJ’s approval of a Conditional Admission 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 PDJ, 1560 Broadway, Ste. 675, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 866-6658; www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PDJ/pdj.htm. They also are available on LexisNexis.®
No. 13PDJ047. People v. Cross. 06/13/2013. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Anthony R. Cross, attorney registration number 08933, from the practice of law for nine months, with six months stayed on the successful completion of a two-year period of probation with conditions. The suspension was effective July 18, 2013.
In early 2008, Cross was hired to obtain a divorce decree for his client. From mid-2008 to 2012, Cross took no action in his client’s divorce matter and allowed his paralegal to perform all work on the client’s case, resulting in its dismissal. His paralegal then sent the client a forged divorce decree, which the client relied on to marry his second wife.
Cross’s heavy reliance during a four-year period on the work of his staff, while failing to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the staff’s conduct complied with the professional obligations of a lawyer, resulted in the client mistakenly believing he was divorced. Cross’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to CRCP 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 5.3(b).
No. 13PDJ045. People v. Gomez. 06/07/2013. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Ernest Gomez, attorney registration number 26321, from the practice of law for nine months, all stayed on the successful completion of a two-year period of probation with conditions. The suspension was effective June 7, 2013.
Gomez agreed to represent a client in a criminal matter for a flat fee, but he did not prepare a written fee agreement. Gomez later began charging an hourly rate, but he still did not memorialize the fee agreement. On three occasions, Gomez deposited fees paid by his client directly into his operating account. After representing the client for more than a month, Gomez was administratively suspended from the practice of law, a fact that he did not disclose to his client. Additionally, he appeared late for court, did not adequately communicate with his client, and did not keep records of his time. Gomez agreed to refund his client’s entire fee. His misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to CRCP 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and (b); 1.5(a), (b), and (f); 1.15(a) and (c); 3.4(c); 5.5(a); and 8.4(d).
No. 13PDJ048. People v. Hale. 06/19/2013. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Margaret T. Hale, attorney registration number 31406, from the practice of law for one year and one day. The suspension was effective June 19, 2013.
Hale agreed to represent a client in a slip-and-fall incident, but she failed to keep her client informed about the case. Further, Hale’s paralegal, not Hale herself, signed all the correspondence directed to her client. In a response to a motion to compel discovery responses on her client’s behalf, Hale indicated that she had lost contact with her client and had hired a private investigator to find her, but these representations were false. Her continued and unexplained failure to respond to the opposing party’s discovery requests led the court to dismiss her client’s case and assess attorney fees against her client. Hale did not inform her client of the order dismissing her case or the award of attorney fees. Hale’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to CRCP 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 1.1, 1.4(a)(3) and (4), 3.3(a), 5.3(b), and 8.4(d).
No. 13PDJ014. People v. Wuthrich. 06/04/2013. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Marc T. Wuthrich, attorney registration number 33543, from the practice of law for three years. The suspension was effective July 9, 2013.
Wuthrich neglected two of his clients by failing to diligently represent them and failing to adequately communicate with them. He misrepresented to one client that he had filed a case and set a hearing date when he had not. Wuthrich also mishandled his trust account in several ways: he paid his personal and business bills out of the trust account; he made dozens of prohibited cash withdrawals from the trust account; and he presented numerous items for payment from the trust account without having sufficient funds to cover those items. Wuthrich’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to CRCP 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 1.1; 1.3; 1.4; 1.5; 1.15(d), (i)(3), and (j)(1) and (2); and 8.4(c).
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