Monday, June 23, 2008

The Safety Net

An attorney in Louisiana was retained by a health care home to negotiate a reduction in Medicare reimbursements. The attorney, who was paid a $5,000 advance fee, never obtained the reduction. The client hired new counsel and sought an accounting of the fee. The attorney did not provide the accounting and did not follow through on a promise to return $1,800.

The client filed a bar complaint and the attorney did not respond until oral argument before the Disciplinary Board. The board agreed to vacate an earlier default and sent the matter back for a merits hearing. The hearing resulted in a finding of "no showing" that the attorney had failed to escrow the fees or taken such fees before earned. However, other ethical violations were found. The hearing committee proposed a stayed suspension with two years probation. The Louisiana Supreme Court imposed the stayed suspension but increased the probation period to five years. The attorney had suffered health problems during the period of the misconduct. The attorney "is presently employed by the Attorney General's Office, and...seems to be benefiting from the safety net of this employment."

A dissent would impose an active suspension of at least six months. (Mike Frisch)

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