Monday, June 11, 2018

No Second Censure For Wyoming Attorney

The Wyoming Supreme Court has rejected a proposed censure by its Board of Professional Responsibility in favor of a 30-day suspension

Mr. Hiatt has been licensed to practice law in Wyoming since 1998, and he maintains a law practice in Rock Springs, Wyoming. This matter arises from his representation of Kyle Dudzik, who contacted Mr. Hiatt in early February 2016 regarding his desire to obtain custody of his son. On March 2, 2016, Mr. Hiatt entered an attorneyclient relationship with Mr. Dudzik. They executed an Attorney-Client Fee Agreement under which Mr. Hiatt agreed to perform the work for a $3,000.00 “non-refundable flat fee.” The agreement provided that Mr. Dudzik would “pay $250.00 per week by Friday of each week, until the $3000.00 BALANCE IS PAID IN FULL.” Mr. Dudzik fell behind in his payments and ultimately paid the balance due after Mr. Hiatt threatened to withdraw from the case.

There were several violations including Rule 1.5

Mr. Hiatt agreed to represent Mr. Dudzik for a “non-refundable flat fee in the amount of $3000.00.” While the fee does not appear to be unreasonable on its face, we make our determination of whether the fee was reasonable by applying the factors above, and we conclude that it was not...

Mr. Hiatt charged Mr. Dudzik a “non-refundable flat fee in the amount of $3000.00.” Mr. Hiatt performed very little work to earn that fee. Despite the “nonrefundable” contract provision, Mr. Hiatt had a continuing duty to charge a reasonable fee and to earn that fee. Because his representation of Mr. Dudzik was terminated before the matter was resolved, and because very little progress had been made in the matter when representation was terminated, we conclude that the full fee of $3,000 fee was unreasonable. However, we agree with the BPR that he did earn a portion of that fee. Based upon Mr. Hiatt’s testimony regarding the time he spent on the case and the work  that was actually done, we agree with the BPR that $1,850, or approximately two-thirds of the flat fee, would have been reasonable for the work performed.

A 2016 censure influenced the result

Despite receiving a public censure for nearly identical conduct in the past, Mr. Hiatt failed to adequately communicate with his client and keep him apprised of the status of his case; he failed to perform the work for which he was hired, which caused a delay that likely harmed his client; and, finally, once representation was terminated, he failed to return the unearned portion of his fee.

(Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2018/06/the-wyoming-supreme-court-has-rejected-a-proposed-censure-by-its-board-of-professional-responsibility-in-favor-of-a-30-day-su.html

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