Attorney Disciplinary Decisions from Kentucky Supreme Court for November 2013

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The Supreme Court of Kentucky took disciplinary actions in the following matters noted below.

The following pages were extracted from the November 2013 Monthly Summary of Published Decisions from Kentucky Supreme Court with links and more information on each of the cases.

ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE: 

A. Charles L. Huffman, III v. Kentucky Bar Association  2013-SC-000282-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. All sitting. Minton, C.J.; Abramson, Noble, and Venters, JJ., concur. Scott, J., dissents by separate opinion in which Cunningham and Keller, JJ., concur. Huffman pleaded guilty in federal court to the felony offense of willfully affecting interstate commerce by extortion. The charge arose from Huffman’s conduct while serving as a district judge. Huffman was convicted and, in 1997, he was allowed to resign from the Kentucky Bar Association under threat of disbarment. Approximately 15 years later, Huffman sought reinstatement under SCR 3.510. His case was presented to the Character and Fitness Committee for proceedings under SCR 2.300. After an investigation and hearing, the Committee found that Huffman had complied with all the terms of the order permitting his resignation and that his conduct since his resignation had been exemplary. Accordingly, the Committee recommended to the Board of Governors that Huffman be reinstated to the practice of law, with certain conditions, including his continued participation in the Kentucky Lawyers Assistance Program (KYLAP). The Board of Governors unanimously adopted the Committee’s recommendation. On review, the Supreme Court disagreed with the recommendations of the Committee and the Board and denied Huffman’s reinstatement. Although the Court acknowledged Huffman’s personal rehabilitation and work helping others recover from addiction, the majority held that Huffman’s crime of extortion, perpetrated by trading on his position of power as a district judge, was a breach of public trust that permanently disqualifies him from restoration to the practice of law. The Court also held that approving Huffman’s reinstatement would be inconsistent with recent decisions in comparable cases dealing with similar criminal conduct by lawyers who were elected officials. Accordingly, Huffman’s petition for reinstatement was denied.

B. Kentucky Bar Association v. Richard Lee Walls  2013-SC-000621-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. A trial commissioner recommended that Walls receive a 181-day suspension from the practice of law, with 30 days to be served and the remaining 151 days conditionally probated, for his alleged violations of SCR 3.130-1.3 (failure to diligently represent client); SCR 3.130- 1.4(a)(4) (failure to respond to client’s requests for information); SCR 3.130- 1.16(d) (failure to return an unearned portion of a fee to a client); and SCR 3.130- 8.1(b) (failure to respond to bar complaint) The Inquiry Commission issued a complaint and served Walls by sheriff. However, Walls failed to respond to the complaint and the subsequent reminder letter. After a trial commissioner was assigned to the case, Walls did file answers through counsel. But his counsel later withdrew and Walls stopped participating in the disciplinary process. The trial commissioner found Walls guilty of the alleged misconduct and recommended that he be suspended. Neither Walls nor Bar Counsel filed a notice for the Supreme Court to review the trial commissioner’s decision, as allowed under SCR 3.360(4). Accordingly, the Court chose to adopt the findings of the trial commissioner and ordered Walls suspended from the practice of law for 181 days, with 30 days to be served and the remainder probated upon his compliance with certain conditions.

C. Kentucky Bar Association v. Joshua Michael Robinson  2013-SC-000668-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Robinson was involved in two separate altercations resulting in criminal convictions. Consequently, the Inquiry Commission issued two disciplinary charges. The charges were consolidated and heard before a trial commissioner. Robinson appealed the trial commissioner’s report but later moved to withdraw his appeal. Accordingly, the disciplinary matter came to the Court under SCR 3.360(4). The trial commissioner’s report concluded that Robinson failed to provide the KBA with current addresses with respect to both disciplinary charges; failed to notify the KBA of his criminal convictions; failed to provide the KBA with a copy of either judgment against him; knowingly failed to respond to the Inquiry Commission’s request for additional information; and that his guilty pleas in both criminal cases were conclusive proof of his violations of SCR 3.130-8.4(b). The trial commissioner recommended that Robinson be suspended from the practice of law for a period of five years and that he continue to attend alcohol and anger management counseling during his suspension. The Court concluded that the trial commissioner’s report was supported by the record and case law. Accordingly, the Court adopted the trial commissioner’s findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations under SCR 3.370(9) and suspended Robinson from the practice of law for a period of five years.

D. Kentucky Bar Association v. Russell W. Burgin  2013-SC-000689-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. A trial commissioner found that Burgin failed to timely deposit a client’s settlement check into escrow and failed to satisfy a Medicaid lien on the check. He also failed to timely respond to requests from Bar Counsel and failed to keep Bar Counsel informed. Taking these facts into consideration, the trial commissioner concluded that Burgin “exhibits an extremely lackadaisical and disconcerting nature and lack of diligence in the performance of his practice.” The trial commissioner considered Burgin’s disciplinary record, which included a private admonition in 2011 and a probated 30-day suspension in 2012, and recommended that Burgin be suspended from the practice of law for sixty days, with thirty days to be probated for two years under specific conditions. Neither Burgin nor Bar Counsel appealed the trial commissioner’s recommendation. The Court found that the trial commissioner’s findings and conclusions were supported by the record and the law and the recommended sanction was appropriate in light of Burgin’s history of prior discipline. Accordingly, the Court adopted the trial commissioner’s recommendation and suspended Burgin for sixty days, with thirty days to be probated for two years under specific conditions.

E. Randal Kent Perkins v. Kentucky Bar Association  2013-SC-000702-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. Minton, C.J.; Abramson, Keller, Noble, Venters and Scott, JJ., concur. Cunningham, J., concurs but would also order movant to pay restitution to David Megronigle. Perkins moved the Court to enter an Order resolving three pending disciplinary proceedings against him by imposing a suspension from a practice of law for a period of five years with several conditions. The charges against Perkins included several counts, including violations of SCR 3.130-1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness); SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(3) (failure to keep client reasonably informed); SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(4) (failure to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); SCR 3.130-1.4(b) (failure to explain matters to client); SCR 3.130- 1.15(a) (failure to keep the property of client or third party separate from lawyer’s own property); SCR 3.130-1.15(b) (failure to promptly notify third party of receipt of funds); SCR 3.130-1.16(d) (failure to protect client’s interest upon termination of representation); SCR 3.130-8.3(b) (failure to respond to a lawful demand for information from disciplinary authority); and SCR 3.130-8.3(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). Perkins admitted that his actions were in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and negotiated a sanction with Bar Counsel in an effort to resolve the pending disciplinary actions. The Court agreed with the majority of the negotiated sanction, though declined to order Perkins to KYLAP based on the lack of evidence that he suffered from a mental health or substance abuse issue. Accordingly, the Court ordered that Perkins be suspended from the practice of law for a period of five years.

F. Astrida L. Lemkins v. Kentucky Bar Association  2013-SC-000703-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Lemkins moved the Court to impose a negotiated sanction of public reprimand for her violations of SCR 3.130- 1.4(a)(3); SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(4); and SCR 3.130-1.6(d). Lemkins acknowledged that she engaged in the misconduct in violation of the Rules of Professional Misconduct and agreed to the imposition of discipline. The Court agreed that the negotiated sanction was appropriate and publicly reprimanded Lemkins for her violations.

G. Kentucky Bar Association v. Ronald E. Thornsberry  2013-SC-000718-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Thornsberry was charged with violating SCR 3.130-5.5(a) (a lawyers shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction); SCR 3.130- 5.5(b) (a lawyer who is not admitted to practice in this jurisdiction, including a lawyer under suspension, shall not establish or maintain an office or other presence in this jurisdiction); SCR 3.130-8.1(b) (failure to respond to a lawful demand for information from disciplinary authority); and SCR 3.175(1)(a) (failure to maintain a current address with the Director), arising from his continued representation of a client after he was suspended from the practice of law. The Board of Governors found Thornsberry guilty of all counts and recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for 181 days, to run consecutively with his current suspensions. The Court adopted the Board’s findings of guilt and sanctioned Thornsberry accordingly.

H. David L. Drake v. Kentucky Bar Association  2013-SC-000721-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Drake moved the Court to impose the negotiated sanction of public reprimand for his violations of SCR 3.130-1.1; SCR 3.130-1.3; and SCR 3.130-1.4(b). Drake acknowledged his violations of SCR 3.130-1.3 and 3.130-1.4(b) but denied he violated 3.130-1.1. In light of these admissions, Drake and the KBA agreed to a negotiated sanction that would dismiss the violation of SCR 3.130-1.1 and impose a public reprimand. The Court agreed that the negotiated sanction was appropriate and publicly reprimanded him for his violations.

I. William D. Rye v. Kentucky Bar Association  2013-SC-00646-KB November 21, 2013 

Opinion of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Rye moved the court to impose the negotiated sanction of public reprimand with conditions for his violation of SCR 3.130-1.3, SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(3), and SCR 3.130- 8.1(b

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