The Colorado Lawyer
Vol. 29, No. 3 [Page 99]
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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 Appeal to the Appellate Discipline Commission
In the Matter of Vincent, No. 99AD002, 01/26/00. Attorney Regulation.
The Appellate Discipline Commission ("Commission") affirmed the decision of the Hearing Board and suspended the attorney, Doug Vincent, for failing to maintain a client's funds separate from his own, thereby violating Colo. RPC 1.15(a); for failing to pay the bills of third parties promptly with the funds he had received for that purpose, thereby violating Colo. RPC 1.15(b); and for engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, thereby violating Colo. RPC 8.4(c). A client gave Vincent money to use to pay the costs he incurred in handling litigation. Vincent failed to pay the costs promptly and, in the interim, used some of the money as though it were his own. He failed to explain the workings of a contingent fee agreement to his client, and failed to explain his handling of client funds, leaving the client with the incorrect impression that the funds had been used to pay costs. Vincent also misled one vendor by claiming that its bill had been discharged in bankruptcy, agreeing to provide supporting documentation, and then failing to do so. In reaching its decision, the Commission determined that the findings of fact of the Hearing Board were not clearly erroneous and that the sanction imposed by the Hearing Board was not manifestly excessive. The two-year suspension from the practice of law is effective thirty-one days after the date of the Opinion. p.101.
Summaries of Decisions Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(December 21, 1999 to January 20, 2000)
People v. Cohen, No. 97SA211, 1/3/2000. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge and Hearing Board reinstated Petitioner Gary S. Cohen to the practice of law, effective January 11, 2000. (No Opinion issued.)
People v. Elinoff, GC98C109, 1/5/2000. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("PDJ") and Hearing Board amended their prior Opinion and Order dated September 17, 1999, pursuant to respondent's C.R.C.P. 59(a)(4) motion, only as to the sanction imposed. The PDJ and Hearing Board reaffirmed their finding that respondent's misconduct constituted bribery of a public official. The PDJ and Hearing Board considered the previously determined mitigating circumstances, together with respondent's additional character testimony introduced at the post-trial hearing, and respondent's demonstration of remorse and comprehension of the gravity of his conduct, and found that a reduction in sanction was warranted. The sanction was amended from disbarment to a three-year suspension, with one year of the suspension period stayed during a one-year period of probation subject to conditions. p.104.
Summaries of Decisions Regarding Conditional Admissions of Misconduct
Issued by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge
(December 21, 1999 through January 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. Loyd, No.GC94A54 (consolidated with GC94A70 and 99PDJ117) 12/28/1999. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties' Amended Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Barbara Christie Loyd from the practice of law for a period of nine months, followed by one year and three months' probation, subject to certain conditions. Respondent has been under treatment and medication for bipolar disorder for the past five years, and respondent has not engaged in any instances of illegal or unethical conduct during this time period. In Case No. GC94A54, respondent pled guilty on three separate occasions to driving while ability impaired; on another occasion, she was charged with driving under the influence, in violation of prior DR1-102(a)(1) and prior DR1-102(a)(6). Respondent did not report these convictions to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, in violation of C.R.C.P. 241.16(b). Respondent made false and inaccurate representations to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, in violation of DR1-102(a)(4) and DR1-102(a)(1). Respondent failed to file timely notice of appeal on behalf of a client, in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3 and Colo. RPC 8.4(a). In Case No. GC94A70, respondent made false representations to a client in order to obtain the client's documents of identification, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c). In Case No. 99PDJ117, respondent obtained documents of identification of a potential client, purchased a car and obtained title for the car in the potential client's name. In so doing, respondent committed the crime of criminal impersonation, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(b), Colo. RPC 8.4(c), C.R.C.P. 241.6(3) and C.R.C.P. 241.6(5). Respondent used an attorney's letterhead without authorization, representing that she had authority to do so, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(c) and C.R.C.P. 241.6(3). Respondent pled guilty to possession of a Schedule III controlled substance, driving after judgment prohibited, driving under the influence of drugs, and driving while a habitual traffic offender, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(b), Colo. RPC 8.4(c), C.R.C.P. 241.6(3) and C.R.C.P. 241.6(5). Respondent obtained a driver's license belonging to another person and used it to obtain a duplicate driver's license without authorization, and pled guilty to forgery, in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(b), Colo. RPC 8.4(c), C.R.C.P. 241.6(3), and C.R.C.P. 241.6(5). The parties agreed to, and the Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved, the sanction of nine months with one year and three months' probation, taking into consideration significant mitigating factors, including the absence of a prior disciplinary record, personal or emotional problems, a cooperative attitude toward disciplinary proceedings, a mental disability (bipolar disorder), interim rehabilitation and the imposition of other severe penalties and sanctions.
People v. House, 99PDJ088, 1/7/2000. Attorney Regulation.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted the parties' Conditional Admission of Misconduct and suspended Respondent Juliette Alane House from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day, with all but ninety days of the period of suspension stayed on the condition that respondent be placed on probation for two years commencing upon the completion of the ninety-day suspension and subject to certain conditions. Respondent failed to file with the court on behalf of her clients a summons and petition for dissolution of marriage, and, although believing that the documents had been filed, failed to take steps to verify that they had been filed, and failed to communicate with her clients. Respondent effectively terminated representation of her clients by failing to take further action on the case, failed to take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect the clients' interests, failed to refund $131 paid to her in advance for costs, failed to maintain this amount in a separate trust account, and negligently converted this amount. Upon moving her office, respondent failed to update her address with the Office of Attorney Registration. Respondent's conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3, Colo. RPC 1.16(d), Colo. RPC 8.4(c), and C.R.C.P. 227(2)(b).
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