Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Only Disbarment

The Louisiana Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney who made false representations to secure access to over $200,000 held by a court pending resolution of a dispute with his former law partner and practiced law after an interim suspension

The record establishes by clear and convincing evidence that respondent made multiple misrepresentations in connection with the filing of an ex parte motion to withdraw more than $200,000 in disputed funds from the registry of the court. Specifically, respondent represented to the trial court that his former law partner had no opposition to the withdrawal of the funds, when respondent knew this was not the case. Furthermore, respondent did not serve a copy of the motion on his former law partner or his counsel of record, contrary to his representations to that effect in the certificate of service. Respondent then filed two additional pleadings – an opposition filed in the trial court and a writ application filed in the court of appeal – in which he made additional misrepresentations of fact. Finally, respondent repeatedly engaged in the unauthorized practice of law after he was placed on interim suspension. Under these circumstances, respondent violated the Rules of Professional Conduct as charged in the formal charges.


Respondent acted intentionally, and violated duties owed to his clients, the legal system, and the profession, causing both actual and potential harm. The applicable baseline sanction is disbarment. The aggravating and mitigating factors found by the board are supported by the record.

Respondent’s misconduct was undoubtedly egregious. However, we see no compelling reason to deviate from the baseline sanction in this matter. Accordingly, we will impose disbarment, retroactive to September 28, 2018, the date of respondent’s interim suspension. 

Justice  Crichton would make it permanent

As the majority’s opinion reflects, respondent prepared an ex parte motion to withdraw disputed funds amounting to over $200,000 deposited in the court registry and represented to the court that the motion was unopposed when, in fact, respondent had no personal knowledge that the motion was unopposed. Moreover, respondent included with his motion a certificate of service certifying he had served the motion on all counsel of record. This certification was also patently false. Based upon respondent’s false representations to the court, the court released the deposited funds to respondent, who immediately deposited the check and spent the money. Upon receiving a later-filed opposition to the motion to withdraw, respondent again represented to the court that his original motion to withdraw was unopposed.

Respondent also verified under oath that, following the trial court’s refusal to continue a hearing on his opponent’s Motion for New Trial regarding restoration of the funds to the court registry, he had emailed and mailed a copy of his writ application to the court of appeal to all counsel of record. Again, this representation was false. Opposing counsel only received a copy of the application in the mail after the appellate court had granted supervisory relief and ordered the trial court to select a new hearing date. When ultimately confronted about these repeated falsities, respondent consistently attempted to shift blame to others, primarily his non-lawyer support staff. As the Disciplinary Board noted, respondent’s intentional corruption of the judicial process in this regard most certainly qualifies under our amended rule as well as the guidelines for permanent disbarment.

Further, despite respondent’s 2018 suspension as a result of this serious misconduct, In re: Evans, 18-1433 (La. 9/28/18), 253 So. 3d 133, respondent continued to communicate with opposing counsel in several pending matters, engaged in settlement negotiations, and received, disbursed, and otherwise handled client funds by way of his trust account (upon which he was the only signatory) during his suspension. Although respondent claimed his unauthorized practice of law was based upon “an honest misunderstanding of the terms of his suspension,” I find his behavior falls within the guidelines for permanent disbarment (unauthorized practice of law) and demonstrates that there is no reasonable expectation for a rehabilitation of respondent’s character in the future.

Respondent’s continued lack of remorse for his egregious behavior, his multiple intentional misrepresentations to the trial court and the court of appeal, and his flagrant disregard for this Court’s authority by continuing to practice law after being prohibited from doing so demonstrate a clear lack of ethical and moral fitness to practice law. Accordingly, I find the only appropriate sanction under these circumstances is permanent disbarment from the practice of law. I therefore dissent.

(Mike Frisch)

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