Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Little Misunderstanding

After a series of disciplinary encounters involving reprimands and a consent suspension, a Louisiana lawyer was reinstated in 1992. A thirteen count petition instituting formal charges was filed in 1998, leading to the interim suspension of the attorney in January 2000 and disbarment in October 2000. He has not sought reinstatement.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel thereafter filed charges alleging that, in two matters, the attorney had continued to practice in violation of the court orders. He remained actively involved in one personal injury case and settled a second case, placing the check in his trust acccount. His defense in the disciplinary case: "he maintained that he was unaware that depositing a settlement check into his client account and disbursing the funds constituted the practice of law...he thought of the practice of law as 'giving advice, going to Court, charging fees for stuff and that kind of thing.' " He also thought he could still negotiate a reduction of medical expenses incurred and speak with the clients concerning their cases.

The Louisiana Supreme Court found that he had engaged in unauthorized practice and ordered not just disbarment, but permanent disbarment. A dissent notes that he had never sought reinstatement, thus "it is not necessary today to consider these additional violations and permanently disbar Respondent from the practice of law." (Mike Frisch)

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