SC: Attorney Disciplinary Decisions from Kentucky Supreme Court for June 20, 2013

Columns from Louisville, Kentucky IMG_0963The Supreme Court of Kentucky took disciplinary actions in the following matters noted below.   The following pages were extracted from the June 2013 Monthly Summary of Published Decisions from Kentucky Supreme Court with links and more information on each of the cases.

ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE:
A. Kentucky Bar Association v. Ronald Hines
2012-SC-000842-KB June 20, 2013

Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Hines was charged in four separate disciplinary files with 22 counts of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. The first and second charges stemmed from Hines’ representation of a corporation that was formed to manage the property from an estate and had a combined total of 15 counts. The trial commissioner entered a lengthy recommendation to resolve all the charges by merging some of the counts and dismissing others, ultimately concluding that Hines had violated SCR 3.130-1.4(a); SCR 3.130-1.13(a); SCR 3.130-1.13(d); SCR 3.130-1.16(d); and SCR 3.130-1.6(a). Based on these findings of misconduct, the trial commissioner recommended a 120-day suspension from the practice of law, noting as mitigating factors Hines’ substantial experience in the practice of law; his previous misconduct (a violation of SCR 3.130-1.15(a); a pattern of misconduct; multiple offenses; and a refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his actions.

The third charge against Hines arose from his representation of a child in a dog- bite case and contained four counts. The trial commissioner found Hines guilty of two counts, violations of SCR 3.130-3.3(d) and SCR 3.130-3.4(c), and recommended a public reprimand. Finally, the fourth charge included three counts and arose from a Civil Rule 11 sanction against Hines relating to a series of banking lawsuits. The trial commissioner found that Hines had not knowingly or intentional disobeyed Rule 11; accordingly, the commissioner found Hines not guilty of the three counts.

The Board of Governors accepted the trial commissioner’s report as to all four files. Hines sought review with the Supreme Court under SCR 3.370(7). On review, the Court agreed with the recommendation of the Board of Governors for the most part, holding that Hines was guilty of violating SCR 3.130-1.4(a); SCR 3.130-1.13(a); SCR 3.130-1.16(d); SCR 3.130-1.6(a); SCR 3.130-3.3(d); and SCR
3.130-3.4(c) but not guilty of violating SCR 3.130-1.13(d). The Court suspended Hines from the practice of law in the Commonwealth for 120 days.

B. Kentucky Bar Association v. Ronald E. Thornsberry
2013-SC-000153-KB June 20, 2013
Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Thornsberry was suspended from the practice of law on March 7, 2011, for failing to pay his KBA dues. On June 21, 2011, while he remained under suspension, Thornsberry was paid $675 to represent a client in a divorce proceeding. Several months later, Thornsberry informed his client via text message that he had filed her divorce petition, even though he had not. After the client became pregnant, Thornsberry advised her that she could not get a divorce while she was pregnant, even if the child did not belong to her husband. In November of 2011, the client asked Thornsberry for a refund of the $675 retainer. Thornsberry complied and the client filed a bar complaint against him. Thornsberry was informed of the charges by letter dated January 11, 2012, but did not file a response to the complaint. The Inquiry Commission issued the charges by notice, which was returned. The sheriff also attempted service on Thornsberry to no avail, and a second certified notice was also returned. Therefore, the case went to the Board as a default case. The Board found Thornsberry guilty of violating SCR 3.130-5.5(a); SCR 3.130-5.5(b); and SCR 3.130-8.4(c). Neither Thornsberry nor the KBA filed a notice of review with the Supreme Court, so the Court adopted the Board’s recommendation. Considering Thornsberry’s substantial prior disciplinary history and the seriousness of the present violations, the Court agreed to and adopted the Board’s recommendation to suspend Thornsberry for two years, to run consecutively to all suspensions currently imposed.

C. Kentucky Bar Association v. Daniel Keith Robertson
2013-SC-000221-KB June 20, 2013
Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Robertson was provided with a $2,500 retainer to represent a client in a legal matter. Robertson failed to communicate with his client and failed to return the client’s retainer. The client filed a bar complaint but Robertson failed to file an answer. The Inquiry Commission issued a charge against Robertson alleging violations of four disciplinary rules: SCR 3.130-1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence); SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(3) and (4) (failure to keep client reasonably informed); SCR 3.130- 1.16(d) (failure to refund advance payment of fee); and SCR 3.130-8.1(b) (failure to respond to lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority). The Board of Governors found Robertson guilty of all charges and, taking into consideration his prior disciplinary actions, recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for 181 days, refund all fees to the client, attend the Ethics and Professionalism Enhancement Program, and be referred to Kentucky Lawyers Assistance Program. Pursuant to SCR 3.370(9), the Court adopted the recommendation of the Board based on the severity of Robertson’s
violations, his prior disciplinary record, and his failure to respond to the complaint.
D. Brian P. Gilfedder v. Kentucky Bar Association
2013-SC-000261-KB June 20, 2013
Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Gilfedder was suspended from the practice of law under SCR 3.166 for a federal criminal conviction. Thereafter, he moved to resign from the KBA under terms of permanent disbarment. The Court granted the motion, permanently disbarring Gilfedder from the practice of law in the Commonwealth and prohibiting him from applying for reinstatement of his license to practice law.

E. Rodney S. Justice v. Kentucky Bar Association
2013-SC-000281-KB June 20, 2013
Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Justice sought reinstatement to the practice of law following a disciplinary suspension. The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions, Character and Fitness Committee, denied Justice’s application for reinstatement; and the Board of Governors voted unanimously to adopt that recommendation. The Court agreed, holding that Justice should not be granted reinstatement to the practice of law in Kentucky.

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