Vol. 43, No. 3
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.®
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. 13PDJ049. People v. Gaty. 12/23/2013. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Christopher Bursum Gaty, attorney registration number 23192, for three years. The suspension was effective December 23, 2013.
From 2009 to 2012, Gaty committed more than ten offenses in four client matters. Among those are failing to act with reasonable diligence when representing three of these clients; not keeping two clients reasonably informed about their cases; failing to respond to court orders in four cases; and neglecting to return client property when a matter terminated. Gaty also knowingly converted one of his client’s funds, failed to provide that client an accounting, and refused to return her file when requested. Further, he failed to pay outstanding invoices to a court reporter for transcripts he had ordered. He then failed to cooperate in the resulting disciplinary proceedings in each of these matters. At all relevant times, Gaty suffered from personal and emotional problems, as well as a chemical dependency, all of which significantly contributed to his misconduct. Gaty has since reimbursed the funds he converted and paid the court reporter’s fees.
Gaty’s misconduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); 1.4(a)(4) (a lawyer shall promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); 1.15(a) (a lawyer shall safeguard client property); 1.15(b) (a lawyer shall promptly provide a full accounting); 1.15(c) (a lawyer shall keep client property separate until there is a severance of the client’s interest); 1.16(d) (a lawyer shall surrender all papers and property of a client at termination); 3.4(c) (a lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); 8.1(b) (a lawyer has a duty to cooperate with disciplinary investigations); 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation); and 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
No. 13PDJ044. People v. Hambright. 01/03/2014. Attorney Disbarred.
The PDJ approved the parties’ amended conditional admission of misconduct and disbarred Joseph Andreson Hambright, attorney registration number 05155. The disbarment was effective January 3, 2014.
From 2008 to 2011, nine clients retained Hambright to represent them in filing for bankruptcy. In each case, Hambright accepted fees and drafted bankruptcy petitions, but neglected to file the petitions with the bankruptcy court. In five of these matters, he deposited his clients’ fees directly into his operating account. He failed to respond to one client’s attempts to communicate with him about her case. Also during this period, he was hired to represent three additional clients in bankruptcy proceedings. He again collected fees from the clients, but failed to file bankruptcy petitions on their behalf. He has since reimbursed all of the funds he converted from his clients.
On October 1, 2011, Hambright placed his law license on inactive status, but through August 16, 2012, he continued to receive funds from multiple clients and continued to practice law by filing bankruptcy petitions on the clients’ behalf. Hambright appeared or otherwise represented more than twenty clients in bankruptcy cases while his license was inactive. The bankruptcy court ordered Hambright to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for practicing without an active license. The court then ordered him to disgorge fees to fourteen of his clients and enjoined him from practicing law in the bankruptcy court. Hambright did not notify his clients of the injunction.
Hambright’s misconduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness); 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter); 1.4(a)(4) (a lawyer shall promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); 1.5(f) (fees are not earned until a lawyer confers a benefit on the client or performs a legal service); 1.15(a) (a lawyer shall safeguard client property); 1.16(d) (a lawyer shall surrender papers and property of a client upon termination); 5.5(a) (unauthorized practice of law); 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation); and 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
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