Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Divorce Does Not Mitigate License Revocation

The Louisiana Supreme Court revoked an attorney's license

The [hearing] committee determined that respondent violated duties owed to his clients, the public, the legal system, and the profession. His conduct was intentional. He settled his clients’ legal matter without their consent and forged their names on the settlement check and release documents. He lied to and misled his clients regarding the amount of the settlement. Finally, although he settled the matter in 2008 and dismissed their lawsuit without permission, respondent did not pay the settlement proceeds to his clients until 2013. This conduct caused actual and serious harm to the Ortegos, who lost their home and business and went bankrupt. The applicable baseline sanction in this matter is disbarment.

In aggravation, the committee found the following factors: a prior disciplinary record,5 a dishonest or selfish motive, a pattern of misconduct, and multiple offenses. In mitigation, the committee recognized that respondent was going through a divorce at the time of the misconduct.

 Considering the facts of this case, in particular the financial harm that befell the Ortegos in the five years they did not have access to their settlement funds, the hearing committee recommended respondent be disbarred.

Respondent filed an objection to the severity of the sanction recommended by the hearing committee. He urged that a three-year sanction is appropriate under the circumstances.

(Mike Frisch)

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