March 17, 2009
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended the disbarment of an attorney for misconduct in representing clients in a proposed class action lawsuit after class certification had been denied. The board found that the attorney had:
...violated duties to his clients, and to the legal profession... [he] negotiated for a settlement without his clients' prior consent, then he withheld essential information about the settlement from them. He held the most basic information about the total settlement amount which was contained in the settlement document, but he hired 'ethics counsel' to deal with the clients' requests for information through [his] lies to his own 'ethics counsel,' the information was withheld from the clients for months.
The board found record support for a number of aggravating factors. Despite his claim of a clean disciplinary record, he had three prior admonitions for " some of the very types of misconduct he committed in this case." His contention that he has borne the brunt of the violations alone did not move the board, which noted the travails of New York co-counsel Melvyn Weiss.
The board concluded:
...disbarment is the baseline sanction for [his lack of candor to his clients, his attempts to keep key information from them, and his efforts to obtain a fee for himself and his co-counsel which was unreasonable because it comprized money properly belonging to-yet hidden from-his clients.
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