SC: December 2016 Attorney Discipline Cases

Madison Sewell; Christina Rose Edmonson; David Thomas Sparks; Parker Lee Clifton; Robert Hansford Hoskins; Delbert Keith Pruitt; Jason Elias Dutra; Genon Ginn Hensley; James Neal Tilson; Brian Thomas Canupp; Jeremy Joseph Gubin

  • Click here for the Kentucky Court Report’s index of each month’s summary by year and month.
  • Click here for the Kentucky Court Report’s index of each month’s minutes of all decisions by year and month.
  • Click here for Kentucky Court Report’s index of attorney discipline cases
  • Click here for grants of MDR (motions for discretionary review)

ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE: 

A. In re: Madison Sewell 

2016-SC-000355-CF December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Sewell tendered an application for admission to the Kentucky Bar without examination, relying on the provision in SCR 2.110 that allows for admission without examination for persons who have been admitted to practice law in another jurisdiction and are actively engaged in the teaching of the law. The Office of Bar Admissions denied his application, noting that Sewell’s employment as a high school pre-law teacher did not satisfy the requirements of the rule. The Supreme Court held that the nature of Sewell’s current employment was irrelevant because SCR 2.110 was inapplicable. Sewell had not practiced law for the requisite time period in a state that has reciprocity with Kentucky. Therefore, his application was untimely and was denied.

B. Kentucky Bar Association v. Christina Rose Edmonson 

2016-SC-000388-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. The charges against Edmondson arose from her failure to respond to discovery in a breach of contract case and her failure to file suit in a loan dispute. The Board noted that Edmondson had previously been suspended for failure to pay bar dues and comply with CLE requirements, a suspension that was ongoing; had been suspended for 180 days for failing to follow through with representation in other cases, which was also ongoing; and had not responded to the current charges. Therefore, the Board recommended that Edmondson be suspended for 181 days to be served concurrently with her 180 day suspension. The Court, noting that the current charges arose during the same time period as Edmondson’s prior charges, agreed with the Board and suspended Edmondson for 181 days to run concurrently with her 180 day suspension.

C. Kentucky Bar Association v. David Thomas Sparks 

2015-SC-000425-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. The Supreme Court entered an order suspending Sparks for 181 days, with 61 days to serve and the remainder probated for two years, with conditions. The Office of Bar Counsel moved to revoke probation and impose the remainder of the suspension because Sparks violated several conditions. Specifically, Sparks received new disciplinary 11

charges and failed to attend required ethics and business-management courses or establish an IOLTA account. Sparks was ordered to show cause why his probation should not be revoked but he failed to respond. Accordingly, the Court granted the Office of Bar Counsel’s motion and suspended Sparks for the remaining 120 days previously probated.

D. Kentucky Bar Association v. Parker Lee Clifton 

2016-SC-000476-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Clifton was publicly reprimanded by the Supreme Court of Ohio for misconduct in a probate matter in Ohio. The Kentucky Bar Association’s Office of Bar Counsel filed a petition for reciprocal discipline under SCR 3.435. Seeing no reason why Clifton should not be subjected to identical discipline in Kentucky, the Supreme Court granted the petition and publicly reprimanded him.

E. Kentucky Bar Association v. Robert Hansford Hoskins 

2016-SC-000477-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Hoskins’ license to practice law in Ohio was suspended indefinitely, subject to reinstatement by the Supreme Court of Ohio, due to his misconduct and violation of multiple ethics rules in several cases. The Kentucky Bar Association’s Office of Bar Counsel filed a petition for reciprocal discipline under SCR 3.435. The Supreme Court noted that it does not ordinarily impose indefinite suspensions unless an attorney fails to answer a charge. In this case, Hoskins did answer the charges in Ohio but failed to participate in the proceedings in Kentucky. Nevertheless, the Court held that there was no reason why Hoskins should not be subjected to identical discipline in Kentucky and suspended him indefinitely.

F. Kentucky Bar Association v. Delbert Keith Pruitt 

2016-SC-000487-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Pruitt was charged with several counts of misconduct relating to his representation of a client in a felony case. Specifically, the Inquiry Commission charged Pruitt with failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing his client; failing to keep his client updated about her case and failing to respond to her requests for information; failing to timely return any unearned portion of a fee upon termination; and failing to response to the bar complaint. The matter was eventually submitted to the Board of Governors as a default case under SCR 3.201(1). A majority of the Board found Pruitt guilty of all four charges. After considering Pruitt’s disciplinary history and his lack of interest in defending himself against the current charge, the Board recommended a 61-day suspension.

Neither the Office of Bar Counsel nor Pruitt sought review by the Court under SCR 3.370(7) and the Court declined to undertake review under SCR 3.370(8). 12

Accordingly, the Court adopted the Board’s decision in full and suspended Pruitt from the practice of law for 61 days.

G. Kentucky Bar Association v. Jason Elias Dutra 

2016-SC-00490-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Dutra was found guilty of nine counts of misconduct in three separate disciplinary files. All of the charges related to mishandling of client funds. Dutra never filed answers to the charges and the matter was eventually submitted to the Board of Governors as a default case under SCR 3.210. The Board unanimously found Dutra guilty of all counts and, after considering his discipline history, recommended permanent disbarment. Neither the Office of Bar Counsel nor Dutra sought review and the Court declined to undertake review. Accordingly, the Court adopted the Board’s decision in full and permanently disbarred Dutra from the practice of law in Kentucky.

H. Kentucky Bar Association v. Genon Ginn Hensley 

2016-SC-000491-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Hensley was charged with several counts of misconduct stemming from four separate disciplinary files. The charges against Hensley arose from a misdemeanor conviction for failing to maintain automobile liability insurance and from three separate instances of failing to properly represent clients in bankruptcy matters. Hensley was served with all of the charges via certified mail but did not file an answer in any of the four cases. The Board of Governor voted to find Hensley guilty of all but one count and, after considering her history of discipline, a majority voted to recommend that Hensley be suspended from the practice of law for 181 days.

Neither the KBA’s Office of Bar Counsel nor Hensley sought review by the Supreme Court under SCR 3.370(7) and the Court declined to undertake review under SCR 3.370(8). Accordingly, the Board’s recommendation was adopted under SCR 3.370(9) and Hensley was suspended from the practice of law for 181 days.

I. Kentucky Bar Association v. James Neal Tilson 

2016-SC-000532-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Tilson was suspended from the practice of law in Arizona for three years and the Kentucky Supreme Court imposed identical reciprocal discipline. Shortly thereafter, additional disciplinary proceedings against Tilson resulted in his permanent disbarment in Arizona. The Kentucky Bar Association’s Office of Bar Counsel filed a petition for reciprocal discipline under SCR 3.435. Seeing no reason why Tilson should not be subjected to identical discipline in Kentucky, the Supreme Court granted the KBA’s petition and permanent disbarred Tilson from the practice of law. 13

J. Brian Thomas Canupp v. Kentucky Bar Association 

2016-SC-000623-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Canupp asked the Court to enter an order resolving the pending disciplinary proceeding against him by imposing a public reprimand. The charges against Canupp arose from his representation of a client in a wrongful death matter. Canupp admitted that his conduct violated the disciplinary rules as alleged in the charge. He reached an agreement with the Office of Bar Counsel to resolve this matter and asked the Court to enter an order in conformity with their negotiations. The Office of Bar Counsel did not object to Canupp’s motion. After reviewing the allegations, the admitted facts, comparable cases, and Canupp’s previous disciplinary record, the Court concluded that the proposed sanction was appropriate and publicly reprimanded Canupp.

K. Jeremy Joseph Gubin v. Kentucky Bar Association 

2016-SC-000624-KB December 15, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Gubin was arrested and charged with felony first-degree possession of a controlled substance. He pled guilty and was sentenced to three years of supervised diversion and several conditions, including the condition that he not practice law during the period of diversion. Based on his conviction, Gubin was charged by the Inquiry Commission with having violated SCR 3.130-8.4(b), which state that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects. Gubin admitted that his conduct violated the rule and reached an agreement with the Office of Bar Counsel to resolve this matter. He petitioned the Supreme Court to enter an order in conformity with the negotiated sanction, which would suspend him from the practice of law for a period of three years and require him to maintain participation in KYLAP and remain illegal-drug and alcohol free during his suspension. The Office of Bar Counsel did not object to Gubin’s motion and asked that it be granted. After reviewing the allegations, the admitted facts, the comparable cases and Gubin’s previous disciplinary history, the Court concluded that the negotiated sanction was adequate and suspended Gubin from the practice of law for three years, with conditions.

SC: October 2016 Attorney Discipline Cases

Fred G. Greene, John Elias Dutra, Jeffrey Owens Moore, Maureen Ann Sullivan, Justin Neal O’Malley

ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE: 

A. Fred G. Greene v. Kentucky Bar Association 

2015-SC-000363-KB October 202, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Greene admitted to violating SCR 3.130(1.15)(a) and SCR 3.130(1.8)(a). He moved the Court under the negotiated sanction rule, SCR 3.480(2), to impose a 181-day suspension with 61 days of the suspension to be probated for one year, conditioned upon Greene incurring no further disciplinary charges within one year from the date of the Court’s order, maintaining his continuing legal education requirements, and paying his membership dues. The KBA did not object to Greene’s motion.

The Court noted that it had rejected a prior negotiated sanction proposed by Greene and agreed to by the KBA in this same disciplinary action and had remanded the case for further consideration. The Court reviewed the underlying facts leading to the disciplinary charges, which involved Greene’s failure to properly maintain his escrow account and borrowing $50,000 from a client, ostensibly to cover the deficiency in his escrow account. Greene admitted to violating both SCR 3.130(1.15)(a) and SCR 3.130(1.8)(a).

The Court also reviewed Greene’s multiple prior disciplinary sanctions for unprofessional conduct, including six separate private admonitions, a public reprimand and a thirty-day suspension. The Court ultimately concluded that the sanction proposed by Greene and agreed to by the KBA was adequate, noting that 7

the sanction period will amount to an actual suspension of 120 days or 4 months. Accordingly, the Court granted Greene’s motion to impose a 180-day suspension with 61 days probated, conditioned upon Greene incurring no further disciplinary charges, maintaining his continuing legal education requirements and paying his membership dues.

B. Kentucky Bar Association v. John Elias Dutra 

2016-SC-000386-KB October 20, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Dutra was charged with two disciplinary violations for failing to deposit an advance fee payment into an escrow account and abandoning his client, failing to return the client’s paperwork, and failing to properly withdraw from a case upon termination of representation. The Inquiry Commission’s charge was sent to Dutra by certified mail but acknowledgement of receipt was never returned. The following month, Dutra moved for a 21-day extension of time to respond to the Commission’s inquiry. His request was granted but no responsive pleading was ever filed.

The Commission ultimately submitted the matter to the Board of Governors as a default case. The Board unanimously found Dutra guilty of each charge and, after considering his prior disciplinary history, recommended that Dutra be suspended from the practice of law for thirty days and that he be required to repay his former client the sum of $1,550. The Board further recommended that Dutra’s suspension be probated for one year if he reimbursed the client within sixty days. The Supreme Court agreed with the Board’s recommendation and sanctioned Dutra accordingly.

C. Kentucky Bar Association v. Jeffrey Owens Moore 

2016-SC-000387-KB October 20, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. The Board of Governors considered two separate files against Moore, one containing a two-count charge and the other a three-count charge. The cases came before the Board as default cases under SCR 3.210 after Moore failed to respond to the charges. The Board unanimously found Moore guilty of all five counts and recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for one year, to be served consecutively to his suspensions; that he be ordered to repay a loan to a client; that he be ordered to participate and comply with the Kentucky Lawyers Assistance Program; and that he be ordered to pay the costs of this action.

Neither the Office of Bar Counsel or Moore filed a notice of review so the Supreme Court exercised its authority under SCR 3.370(9) and adopted the recommendation of the Board. 8

D. Maureen Ann Sullivan v. Kentucky Bar Association 

2016-SC-000467-KB October 20, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Sullivan moved the Court to impose a thirty day suspension from the practice of law, to be probated for two years on the condition that she not receive any new charges from the Inquiry Commission during the probationary period. She admitted violating the Rules of Professional Conduct, including SCR 3.130(1.4)(a)(5); SCR 3.130(1.15)(a); SCR 3.130(1.16)(d); SCR 3.130(5.5); and SCR 3.130(8.1)(b).

The KBA did not object to the proposed sanction, which was negotiated under SCR 3.480(2). Upon review of the facts and the relevant case law, the Supreme Court found the proposed discipline appropriate and sanctioned Sullivan accordingly.

E. Justin Neal O’Malley v. Kentucky Bar Association 

2016-SC-000483-KB October 20, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. The charges against O’Malley arose from his failure to repay fees to two clients after he failed to appear for their hearings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. He later admitted that he lacked sufficient funds to repay his clients. He further admitted that he lacked sufficient knowledge in the practice of bankruptcy law and agreed not to file any bankruptcy cases for five years. As a result, he was charged with violating SCR 3.130(1.1) (competency); SCR 3.130(1.16)(d) (duties upon termination of representation); SCR 3.130(3.4)(c) (disobeying an obligation to a tribunal); and SCR 3.130(8.4)(c) (dishonesty).

O’Malley was suspended from the practice of law in Marcy 2015 for thirty days and has not been reinstated. He moved the Supreme Court to impose a 181-day suspension from the practice of law for his admitted violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The KBA did not object to the proposed discipline, which was negotiated under SCR 3.480(2). In agreeing to the sanction, the KBA cited O’Malley’s extensive mitigating evidence, including physical and mental impairments and his cooperation with the Kentucky Lawyers Assistance Program.

Upon review of the facts and the relevant case law, the Court found the proposed discipline to be appropriate and suspended O’Malley from the practice of law for 181 days.

 

SC: September 2016 Attorney Discipline Cases

A. Cabell D. Francis, II v. Kentucky Bar Association 

2016-SC-000331-KB September 22, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Francis was indicted for theft by unlawful taking and knowing exploitation of an adult. He negotiated a plea agreement with the Commonwealth that required him to plead guilty to amended charges, pay restitution and resign his license to practice law. In accordance with that agreement, Francis moved to resign under terms of permanent disbarment pursuant to SCR 3.480(3). The KBA had no objection. The Court granted the motion and permanently disbarred Francis from the practice of law in the Commonwealth.

B. Kentucky Bar Association v. Jeffrey Owens Moore 

2016-SC-000335-KB September 22, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. The Inquiry Commission issued a four-count charge against Moore. He failed to respond and the matter proceeded to the Board of Governors as a default case. The Board found Moore guilty of all four counts and recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for one year, with sixty-one days to serve and the remainder probated for one year with conditions. Neither Moore nor Bar Counsel filed a notice of review. So the Court exercised its authority under SCR 3.370(9) and adopted the recommendation of the Board.

The Court further noted that it had recently indefinitely suspended Moore for his failure to respond to the charges in this case. However, the indefinite suspension had not been issued before the KBA submitted the current matter to the Court. Therefore, the Board did not take the indefinite suspension into account in its recommendation. For that reason, the Court adopted the Board’s recommended sanction and imposed it concurrently with his current indefinite suspension. 7

C. Kentucky Bar Association v. Douglas C. Brandon 

2016-SC-000336-KB September 22, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. In 2002, Brandon was indicted in federal court for his participation in an international Ponzi scheme. He was later convicted of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud.

Following his sentencing in 2005, the Supreme Court suspended Brandon from the practice of law. Brandon’s counsel then asked the Inquiry Commission to place the matter in abeyance under SCR 3.180(2). The matter remained in abeyance awaiting Brandon’s appeal of his judgment and sentence in the United States District Court, with counsel providing regular status updates. In May 2015, Bar Counsel moved the Commission to remove the matter from abeyance due to a lack of updates from Brandon’s counsel and information that Brandon had been released from incarceration. Subsequently, Bar Counsel served Brandon’s attorneys of record and sent a courtesy copy to Brandon’s bar roster address. The attempts were unsuccessful and the matter was removed from abeyance and a charge was filed against him. Brandon never answered the charge and the matter was submitted to the Board of Governors as a default case under SCR 3.210(1).

The Board ultimately found Brandon guilty of the charges and recommended that he be permanently disbarred. Upon review of the record, the Supreme Court agreed with the Board’s decision and adopted its recommendation to permanently disbar Brandon from the practice of law in the Commonwealth.

D. Kentucky Bar Association v. David Thomas Sparks 

2016-SC-000338-KB September 22, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. The Inquiry Commission issued a three-count charge against Sparks for failing to respond to his clients’ request for information; failing to return the clients’ paperwork, abandoning the clients, and failing to properly withdraw from a case upon termination of the representation; and failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority. Sparks acknowledged receipt of the charge via certified mail but declined to respond. So the Commission submitted the matter to the Board of Governors as a default case under SCR 3.210. The Board found Sparks guilty of each charge and recommended that he be suspended for 181 days and be referred to KYLAP. The Board also noted that in February 2016, Sparks had been suspended from the practice of law for 181 days, with 61 days to serve and the balance probated for two years with conditions, and recommended that his new suspension run consecutive to his current suspension. The Supreme Court reviewed the record and agreed that the Board reached the appropriation conclusions as to Sparks’s guilt and adopted the recommendation that he be suspended from the practice of law for 181 days, to run consecutive with the 181-day suspension ordered by the Court in February 2016. 8

E. Michael Stephen Wade v. Kentucky Bar Association 

2016-SC-000373-KB September 22, 2016 

Opinion and Order of the Court. All sitting; all concur. Wade moved the Supreme Court to accept his motion for consensual discipline for his admitted violations of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct. Wade, who has been under temporary suspension from the practice of law since October 2012, received two charges from the Inquiry Commission relating to two separate criminal proceedings against him in Jefferson and Bullitt counties. The Court acknowledged that since his convictions, Wade had taken a number of steps to treat his drug and alcohol addiction, including extensive inpatient treatment, entering a supervision agreement with KYLAP, and regularly attending twelve-step support meetings. Wade urged the Court to enter an Order suspending his license to practice law for a period of four years and six months, retroactive from October 26, 2012, or until such time as he has satisfied the full terms and conditions of pretrial diversion in the Jefferson and Bullitt Circuit Court proceedings, whichever event last occurs. The KBA, after a thorough review of his motion and analogous case law, did not object to Wade’s proposed discipline. The Court agreed it was similarly satisfied with the negotiated sanction and agreed to grant the motion, suspending Wade from the practice of law until April 26, 2017, or until he satisfies the full terms and conditions of his two criminal proceedings and conditions upon his continued participation in KYLAP.

F. Kentucky Bar Association v. George Keith Wells
September 22, 2016 

Opinion and Order ofthe Court. All sitting; all concur. Wells was charged with violating several provisions of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct relating to his failure to provide competent representation in a case involving mineral title examination and oil leases. In addition to these grievances, Wells was suspended from practicing law in Kentucky in January 2016 for his failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements and failure to pay bar dues. Following the filing of the complaint and charges, Wells failed to respond in any manner.

After considering the charges alleged in the present case, the Board recommended that Wells be suspended from the practice of law for 61 days and repay the unearned fee he received from his client. The Court agreed with the Board’s recommendation and suspended Wells for 61 days, ordering him to repay his client $10,000 within twenty days of the date of its order.

SC: Attorney Discipline, September 2015

Russell Burgin; John D.T. Brady; Mathew D. Bowman;

BathCoutyPICFrame of historical markers

Click here for prior pages from the Kentucky Court Report posting attorney disciplinary matters.  The Disciplinary Actions can be found at pages 10-11 of the September 2015 SCOKY minutes.

Disciplinary matters with links to the full text of the action are below, dated  September 24, 2015.  The links below are to the complete decision in PDF at the Administrative Office of the Courts.

KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION VS. RUSSELL W. BURGIN
Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law for 1 Year With Conditions.

Russell W. Burgin was admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on May 1, 2001. His Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) number is 88688 and his bar roster addreSs is 1249 South Main St., Ste. 3, London, Kentucky 40741. The KBA’s Board of Governors considered a total of seven counts against Burgin in this matter; the charge reached the Board as a default case pursuant to SCR 3.210. The Board unanimously found Burgin guilty of all seven counts. As for disciplinary action, thirteen of the members of the Board voted that Burgin be suspended from the practice of law for one year, such suspension to run consecutively to any current suspension, and five members voted for a five-year suspension to be served consecutively to any current suspension.

KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION VS.  JOHN D. T. BRADY
Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law for 5 Years With Conditions.

Respondent, John D.T. Brady, was admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on May 1, 2007. Respondent’s Kentucky Bar Association (“KBA”) Member Number is 91731 and his bar roster address is 151 Lovett Park Lane, Georgetown, Kentucky 40324. In 2014, the KBA Inquiry Commission issued three separate disciplinary Charges against Respondent in KBA File Numbers 22391, 22639, and 22691. The three Charges were consolidated into one disciplinary action, which has since reached the KBA Board of Governors (the “Board”) by default. On May 18, 2015, the Board issued its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation. The Board ultimately found Respondent guilty of committing nine of the thirteen alleged disciplinary infractions, and recommended a suspension from the practice of law for a period of five (5) years, to run consecutively with any other discipline already imposed.

MATTHEW D. BOWMAN VS. KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION
Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law for 30 Days Probated For 1 Year With Conditions.

Pursuant to SCR 3.480(2), the negotiated sanction rule, Movant, Matthew D. Bowman,’ moves this Court to impose upon him a thirty day suspension, to be probated for one year, conditioned upon Movant incurring no further disciplinary charges; and further conditioned upon Movant completing the Ethics and Professional Enhancement Program within one year. The Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) has no objection to Movant’s request.

While Movant was employed as a civilian attorney working for the United States Army at Fort Knox, he knowingly provided a false statement to an agent of the Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General. In May 2010, Movant pled guilty to a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1018, Official Certificates or Writings. 2Based upon the maximum possible penalty provided for the offense, it would be classified as a misdemeanor under Kentucky law. As a result of this guilty plea, Movant was sentenced to pay a $25.00 court cost fee and to serve one year on probation.

As a result of the above conduct, the Inquiry Commission charged Movant with having violated SCR 3.130(8.4)(b) 3for professional misconduct in committing “a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

COURT ORDERS PERMITTING THE FOLLOWING ATTORNEYS TO WITHDRAW AS A MEMBER OF THE KBA

  • Martha Turner Hamann
  • David Eugene Cotey
  • Julie Niehoff Huss
  • James R. Elkins

SC: Attorney Discipline, August 2015 (note no minutes published for July 2015)

Attorneys: Jason P. Price; Richard Grove Ward; Kimberly Lynn Bunton; Justin Ross Morgan

Click here for prior pages from the Kentucky Court Report posting attorney disciplinary matters.  The Disciplinary Actions can be found at page 12-13 of the August 2015 SCOKY minutes.

Disciplinary matters with links to the full text of the action are below, dated August 20, 2015.  The links below are to the complete decision in PDF at the Administrative Office of the Courts.

JASON P. PRICE VS. KBA
ORDER CONVERTING PRIVATE REPRIMAND TO PUBLIC REPRIMAND

On August 21, 2014, this Court issued a private reprimand with conditions. One of those conditions was that Price attend and complete an Ethics and Professionalism Enhancement Program (EPEP). In the event Price failed to meet the conditions, the order provided for conversion of the private reprimand to a public one.  Price’s enrollment in a residential treatment program is laudable and would possibly have prevented him from attending the April 17, 2015 EPEP. However, Price has offered no excuse for his failure to pay for the EPEP he attended in 2014. Because Price has not offered any reason why he failed to pay for the 2014 EPEP, despite being able to continue practicing law for 11 months following attendance, we discern no reason to deny the KBA’s motion.   Thus, we hereby convert the August 2014 private reprimand into a public reprimand.

KBA VS. RICHARD GROVE WARD
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR 1  YEAR TO RUN CONCURRENTLY WITH HIS OHIO SUSPENSION

KIMBERLY LYNN BUNTON VS. KBA
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR 1 YEAR PROBATED FOR A PERIOD OF 2 YEARS WITH CONDITIONS

Pursuant to SCR 3.480(2), the negotiated sanction rule, Movant, Kimberly Lynn Bunton’ moves this Court to impose upon her a one-year suspension, to be probated for two years, conditioned upon Movant incurring no further criminal or disciplinary charges, and further conditioned upon Movant fully complying with the terms of her conditional discharge in Commonwealth v. Bunton, Jefferson Circuit Court No. 10-CR-2767. The Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) has no objection to Movant’s request.

While Movant was employed as the director of the Metro Louisville Department of Housing and Family Services, she knowingly violated rules or regulations relating to her office in connection with public benefits received by her mother. In August 2014, Movant entered an Alford plea to two counts of first-degree official misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor. As a result of these convictions, Movant was sentenced to twelve months on each count with the sentences to run concurrently, for a total of 12 months. This sentence was conditionally discharged for two years, or until restitution in the amount of $8,885.00 is paid, whichever is longer.

KBA VS. JUSTIN ROSS MORGAN
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR 90 DAYS

The Respondent, Justin Ross Morgan, 1is alleged to have committed three violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by becoming significantly in arrears on his child-support obligations. A trial commissioner heard the matter, concluded that Morgan was guilty of the charges, and recommended that Morgan be suspended from the practice of law for 90 days. This Court adopts the decision of the Trial Commissioner.

Pursuant to SCR 3.390, Morgan shall, within ten days from the entry of this Opinion and Order: (a) notify, in writing, all clients of his inability to represent them, and of the necessity and urgency of promtly retaining new counsel; (b) notify, in writing, all courts in which he has matters pending of his suspension from the practice of law; (c) provide a copy of all such letters of notification to the Office of Bar Counsel; and (d) to the extent possible, immediately cancel and cease any advertising activities in which he is engaged.

INQUIRY COMMISSION VS. JASON PAUL PRICE
ORDER OF TEMPORARY SUSPENSION

The Inquiry Commission petitions this Court to temporarily suspend Jason Paul Price,, a member of the Kentucky Bar Association, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 3.165(1)(b), which permits temporary suspension if there is probable cause to believe Price’s “conduct poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients or to the public.” In support of its petition, the Commission claims that Price, among other matters, was arrested for trafficking in a controlled substance.

 

SC: Attorney Discipline, June 2015 (note no minutes published for July 2015)

Attorneys: James Douglas Osborne; Michael Constantine Skouteris; John Greene Arnett, Jr.; Rebecca Cox Venter

Click here for prior pages from the Kentucky Court Report posting attorney disciplinary matters.  The Disciplinary Actions can be found at page 5-6 of the June 2015 SCOKY minutes.

Disciplinary matters with links to the full text of the action are below, dated June 11, 2015:

KBA VS. JAMES DOUGLAS OSBORNE
ORDER OF PERMANENT DISBARMENT FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW.

The charge against Osborne alleged the following counts of misconduct: Count I – SCR 3.130-1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness while representing a client); Count II – SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(3) (failure to promptly comply with reasonable request for information); Count III – SCR 3.130-5.5(b) (holding one’s self out as authorized to practice law in a jurisdiction when the lawyer is not admitted to practice); Count IV – SCR 3.130-8.4(c) (engaging in fraud or dishonest conduct); and Count V – SCR 3.130-3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying an obligation of the rules of a tribunal). Attempts to serve Osborne with a copy of the charge via certified mail were unsuccessful, with service subsequently accomplished by serving the Executive Director of the KBA. The executive director attempted service on three different addresses listed for Osborne, but all certified mail documents were returned unclaimed.

MICHAEL CONSTANTINE SKOUTERIS VS. KBA
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR FAILURE TO PAY HIS KBA BAR DUES FOR THE 2014-2015 FISCAL YEAR PURSUANT TO SCR 3.050.

KBA VS. JOHN GREENE ARNETT, JR.
ORDER OF PERMANENT DISBARMENT FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW.

He is alleged to have committed numerous violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Kentucky Bar Association’s Board of Governors has recommended that he be permanently disbarred for his misconduct. This Court adopts the recommendation.

Arnett’s misconduct came to light in the course of an investigation of his use of client funds by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. Arnett had been retained by Robert Shane Hamblin in February 2012 to represent him in a divorce proceeding and received $75,000.00 in marital funds to hold in trust pending final division of the couple’s assets. Arnett placed the funds in his IOLTA account. As part of the divorce settlement, Hamblin was directed to pay his ex-wife one-half of the funds being held by Arnett. Hamblin instructed.   Arnett to release those funds to the ex-wife. Arnett, however, refused to disburse the finds.

While the disciplinary matter was being investigated, Arnett was temporarily suspended from the practice of law as of August 21, 2014. Id. at 170. That suspension is still in effect.  The criminal investigation in Boone County had a domino effect. Several other victims were discovered, leading to a multiple-count felony indictment in the Boone Circuit Court in Criminal Action No. 14-CR-00368 on April 12, 2014, and five separate disciplinary actions against Arnett, which are the subject of this matter.

KBA VS. REBECCA COX VENTER
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR 181 DAYS WITH CONDITIONS.

The KBA’s Board of Governors considered a total of thirteen charges in three separate files against Venter; all of the counts reached the Board as default cases pursuant to SCR 3.210. Of the thirteen charged counts, the Board found Venter guilty of eleven and not guilty of two. The Board unanimously agreed upon disciplinary action including a 181-day suspension from the practice of law, restitution payments, Kentucky Bar Lawyer’s Assistance Program (KYLAP) evaluation and assistance, and that Venter should complete the Ethics and Professional Enhancement Program (EPEP) prior to applying for reinstatement to the practice of law.

SC: Attorney Discipline, May 2015

Attorneys: James Neal Tilson; Eric C. Deters; Russell W. Burgin; Brian Patrick Curtis; Mary Lou Chandler

Click here for prior pages from the Kentucky Court Report posting attorney disciplinary matters.  The Disciplinary Actions can be found at page 8-9 of the May 2015 SCOKY minutes.

Disciplinary matters with links to the full text of the action are below, dated May 14, 2015

KBA vs. JAMES NEAL TILSON
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR 3 YEARS.

He is a member of the Arizona bar and has recently been suspended from the practice of law there for numerous ethical violations. The Kentucky Bar Association’s Office of Bar Counsel has filed a petition for reciprocal discipline under Supreme Court Rule 3.435, and has asked this Court to require Tilson to show cause why identical reciprocal discipline against him should not be imposed in Kentucky under Supreme Court Rule 3.435. This Court issued a show-cause order, but Tilson failed to file a response.

Under Kentucky Supreme Court Rule 3.435(4), Tilson shall be subject to identical discipline in the Commonwealth of Kentucky “unless [he] proves by substantial evidence: (a) a lack of jurisdiction or fraud in the out-of-state disciplinary proceeding, or (b) that the misconduct established warrants substantially different discipline in this State.” SCR 3.435(4)(a)-(b). The Arizona order, as a “final adjudication in another jurisdiction that an attorney has been guilty of misconduct[,] shall establish conclusively the misconduct for purposes of a disciplinary proceeding in this State.” SCR 3.435(4)(c).

KBA VS. ERIC C. DETERS
ORDER OF TWO CONSECUTIVE 30 DAY TO BE PUBLISHED SUSPENSIONS FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW
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2015-SC-000023-KB
2015-SC-000025-KB

In two now-consolidated disciplinary actions, the Kentucky Bar Association Board of Governors found Eric C. Deters 1guilty of a number of ethical violations and recommended he be suspended thirty days for each. Deters petitions this Court to strike the Board’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation because the Board failed to provide its findings to this Court within the time specified under Supreme Court Rules (SCR) 3.370(6). We now deny Deters’s petition and adopt the Board’s recommended thirty-day suspension for each action, to run consecutively.

More specifically, the district judge found Deters “knowingly pursued frivolous claims against these two defendants long after he knew the claims to be such, thereby causing defendants to incur additional litigation costs.” In the end, the district judge ordered Deters to pay $12,765.45.

KBA VS. RUSSELL W. BURGIN
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR 181 DAYS WITH CONDITIONS.

The Respondent, Russell W. Burgin,’ is alleged to have committed four violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. He did not respond to the bar complaint or the resulting formal charge, and thus this matter has proceeded as a default case under Supreme Court Rule 3.210. The Board of Governors has reviewed the matter and has recommended that Burgin be found guilty of all four counts and be suspended from the practice of law for 181 days. This Court accepts the recommendation.

This pattern of misconduct, albeit largely confined to the four-year period leading to Burgin’s suspension in 2013, and Burgin’s noncompliance suggests that yet another suspension will be ineffective. But this Court does not take the Board’s recommendation lightly, and it is apparent from the Board’s recommendation of a mandatory KYLAP referral that Burgin may be suffering from a substance-abuse or other mental health problem, which may have contributed to his misconduct. For these reasons, this Court will not undertake an independent review of this case.

KBA VS. BRIAN PATRICK CURTIS
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR 5 YEARS WITH CONDITIONS.

Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 3.360, the Trial Commissioner recommends this Court suspend Brian Patrick Curtis’ (Curtis) for five (5) years from the practice of law to run consecutively with all current suspensions for numerous ethical violations involving four separate Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) charges. Finding sufficient cause to do so, we accept the Trial Commissioner’s recommendation to suspend Curtis from the practice of law for five (5) years; however, that suspension shall run concurrently with Curtis’s ongoing suspension for failure to comply with CLE requirements and consecutively with any other current suspensions.

Curtis’s charges arise from allegations that he: agreed to perform legal services for clients or prospective clients in bankruptcy actions; accepted either full or partial payment of costs and fees; and subsequently failed to perform any services. Furthermore, in all cases, Curtis allegedly failed: to respond to the clients’ inquiries; to return file materials; and to refund unearned portions of fees. Finally, in three of the four cases, Curtis was charged with failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness.

MARY LOU CHANDLER VS. KBA
ORDER OF PERMANENT DISBARMENT FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW.

Movant, Mary Lou Chandler, KBA No. 11465, 1petitions this Court to resign under the terms of permanent disbarment. The Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) has no objection to Chandler’s motion. Movant was temporarily suspended pursuant to SCR 3.166(1) 2on December 20, 2014, and remains suspended at this time.

Movant entered a guilty plea in the Johnson County Circuit Court in the matter of Commonwealth v. Mary Lou Chandler, Case No. 14-CR-00152 to one count of Complicity to Trafficking in a Controlled Substance, a Class D Felony. Movant was sentenced to two years in prison, to be probated for five years. Under the terms of Movant’s plea agreement, she must give up her membership with the Kentucky Bar Association and agree to no longer practice law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

SC: Attorney Discipline, April 2, 2015 (none for month of March)

Michael R. McMahon, Karl Nelson Truman, James M. Cawood, Christopher G. Stewart, Michael R. McMahon, Clyde F. Johnson, Dennis Michael Ritchey, Michael LInden Meyers, Bethanni Forbush-Moss, Robert Horrell, Roderick A. Tejeda, Michael A. Hamilton, Charles H. Schaffner

Click here for prior pages from the Kentucky Court Report posting attorney disciplinary matters.

Disciplinary matters with links to the full text of the action are below:

KBA vs. Michael R. McMahon
Order Of Suspension From The Practice Of Law For 181 Days.

The Board found Respondent guilty of committing two of the four disciplinary infractions and recommended a 181-day suspension from the practice of law. Neither McMahon nor Bar Counsel has filed a notice for this Court to review the Board’s decision as allowed under Supreme Court Rule (“SCR”) 3.370(8). Moreover, and for reasons set forth more fully herein, we decline the opportunity to review the Board’s decision per SCR 3.370(9) and hereby adopt its recommended sanction.

KBA vs. Karl Nelson Truman
Order of public reprimand.

Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Respondent for committing professional misconduct. Accordingly, this Court must determine whether to impose identical reciprocal discipline upon Respondent pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (“SCR”) 3.435.

The misconduct at issue in this disciplinary action arises from an employment contract Respondent required his new associate attorney to sign as a condition of his hiring. The contract included a “Separation Agreement” (the “Agreement”), which specified that in the event the employment relationship ended, the associate was prohibited from contacting, notifying, or soliciting the clients he obtained while working at Respondent’s law firm. Only Respondent had the luxury of notifying the clients of the associate’s departure. The Agreement further included a fee arrangement which highly deterred the associate from continuing to represent those clients.

The KBA’s motion to impose reciprocal discipline in the form of a public reprimand is granted.

James M. Cawood vs. KBA
Order of suspension from the practice of law for 1 year probated for 3 years with conditions.

Basis of suspension was for attorney’s apparent abandonment of client’s cause and refusal to refund unearned portion of his fees.  A bar complaint ensued. In another matter, attorney was overdrawn on his IOLTA Trust Account, and letters from bar counsel for explanation were returned not deliverable.  In mitigation, attorney presented mitigating factors of intense opiate addiction, rehabilitative services, and a supervision agreement with the Kentucky Lawyers Assistance Program.

Based on this mitigating evidence, and in light of similar discipline imposed for analogous misconduct, this Court finds that the consensual discipline proposed by Movant and agreed to by the KBA is appropriate. Therefore, Movant’s motion for a probated suspension from the practice of law is hereby granted.

KBA vs. Christopher G. Stewart
Order of Public Reprimand

The Board of Governors of the Kentucky Bar Association (“KBA”) recommends that this Court publically reprimand Christophe G. Stewart for violating Supreme Court Rule (“SCR”) 3.130-1.15 (safekeeping property) and 3.130-8.1(b) (knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority). Finding a public reprimand to be the appropriate discipline for Stewart’s misconduct, we grant the KBA’s motion.

KBA vs. Michael R. McMahon
Order Of Suspension From The Practice Of Law For 181 Days With Conditions.

The allegations of misconduct in this case, KBA File No. 22121, stem from the fact that McMahon was administratively suspended from the practice of law on January 23, 2013 for non-payment of dues. On July 22, 2013, he filed an application for restoration to membership. Part of that application is Question #10 asking whether the lawyer has complied with Supreme Court Rule 3.390, which requires notice of suspension or withdrawal to be sent to all clients. McMahon admitted that he had not done so.

KBA vs. Clyde F. Johnson
Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law for 5 Years With Conditions

The Board’s recommendation stems from three separate charges, all of which involve Johnson’s failure to perform any legal work for clients after entering into retainer agreements and taking retainer fees.  Curator represented the attorney in the disciplinary action.

Dennis Michael Ritchie vs. KBA
Order of Permanent Disbarment From the Practice of Law.
Attorney  was hired to handle custody matter, client died, and attorney kept unearned fee.  Grandparent later hired attorney to put $50,000 into account for grandson.  Instead attorney spent the $50,000 on himself, and when confronted, attorney borrowed money to pay it back.  Attorney pled guilty to possession of forged instrument and theft by deception.

KBA vs. Michael Linden Meyers
Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law for 30 Days Probated for 2 Years With Conditions.

KBA Inquiry Commission issued a four- count Charge against Respondent on October 4, 2013, in KBA File Number 21948. The Charge alleged violations of the following Rules of Professional Conduct: Count I, Supreme Court Rule (“SCR”) 3.130-1.3 (attorney must represent the client with reasonable diligence and promptness); Count II, SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(3) (attorney shall keep the client reasonably informed); Count III, SCR 3.130-•.4(a)(4) (attorney must promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); and Count IV, SCR 3.130-8.4(c) (attorney may not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation).

Bethani Forbush v. KBA
Order Of Suspension From The Practice Of Law For 61 Days Probated For 2 Years With Conditions.

Bethanni Forbush-Mossl (Moss) moves this Court to suspend her from the practice of law for sixty-one days, which suspension shall be probated for two years for the following admitted violations: failure to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 3.130(1.4)(a)(4); failure to deposit client’s refundable funds into an escrow account, SCR 3.130(1.15)(e); failure to keep client’s property separate from the lawyer’s property, SCR 3.130(1.15)(a); and failure to surrender property and fees upon termination, SCR 3.130(1.16)(d).

Robert L. Horrell vs. KBA
Order of suspension revoked with conditions.

Robert L. Horrell, KBA No. 33260, appeals his suspension from the Kentucky Bar Association (the KBA) for failure to pay his bar dues. The KBA asks this Court to grant Horrell’s appeal on the condition that he pay in full his bar dues for 2014-2015 along with any late fees and costs.

Roderick A. Tejeda vs. KBA
Order of suspension from the practice of law for 4 years with conditions.

Based upon his felony conviction of reckless homicide the Inquiry Commission issued a charge against Movant alleging violation of SCR 3.130- 8.4(b) for professional misconduct in committing “a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” Movant admits that he is guilty of the above ethical violation. As punishment, Movant requests a four-year suspension from the practice of law, retroactive to September 11, 2013 (the date of the automatic temporary suspension imposed upon his felony conviction), with the additional conditions that he continue ongoing monitoring by KYLAP and follow any recommendations made by that office, and that he be released from any supervision by Probation and Parole before reinstatement. ‘The KBA presents no objection to Movant’s proposed sanction.

Michael A. Hamilton vs. KBA
Order denying motion for reinstatement.

KBA vs. Charles H. Schaffner
Order of suspension from the practice of law for 180 days.

 

 

SC: Attorney Discipline February 2015 (no minutes or decisions in Jan. 2015)

Suzanne Prieur Land; Steven F. Claypoole: Daniel Warren James; Robert H. Hoskins and Nathaniel T. Pendleton

Click here for prior pages from the Kentucky Court Report posting attorney disciplinary matters.

Disciplinary matters with links to the full text of the action are below:

 

Kentucky Bar Association v. Suzanne Prieur Land
2014-SC-000300-KB
To Be Published Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law Until Respondent Demonstrates That Her Suspension From the Ohio Supreme Court Has Been Lifted

Land mishandled three estates and filed fraudulent amendments in each of them resulting in a felony conviction.  When the Ohio Supreme Court received notification of Land’s conviction, it imposed an interim felony suspension.  During the hearing on her suspension in Ohio, Land testified that, at the time of her misconduct, she was abusing alcohol and prescription anti-anxiety medication in order to deal with the stresses of work. The OLAP social worker testified that Land had undergone an assessment, and Land’s therapist testified about the treatment being provided to Land.

KBA vs. Steven F. Claypoole
Order of suspension from the practice of law for 6 months.

Claypoole failed to comply with the conditions of an earlier probation.  The bar moved for him to show cause, and he did not responde.

KBA vs. Daniel Warren James
Order of permanent disbarment from the practice of law with conditions.

James loss of license followed flagrant non-support convictions and five year prison sentence.

KBA vs. Robert H. Hoskins
Order of suspension from the practice of law for 60 days with conditions.

Hoskins was paid for work and did not do it.  Board unanimously recommends Hoskins: (1) be suspended from the practice of law for sixty days; (2) pay restitution to his former clients in the amount of $1,275.00; (3) attend the Ethics and Professionalism Enhancement Program (EPEP); and (4) pay all associated costs. Neither party filed a notice of review with this Court

KBA vs. Nathaniel T. Pendleton
Order of permanent suspension from practice of law.

Pendleton was suspended for not paying his dues and accepting fees and representing clients and make court appearances while suspended.  In another of those cases, he was terminated and did not return documents to the client.   In another divorce case, Pendleton took a fee, and falsified the petition.

SC: Attorney Discipline Dec. 18, 2014

Russell Burgin, Brian Patrick Curtis, D. Steven Parks, John Scott Benton, Daniel Edward Pridemore

Click here for prior pages from the Kentucky Court Report posting attorney disciplinary matters.

Disciplinary matters with links to the full text of the action are below:

KBA vs. Russell W. Burgin
2013-SC-000689-KB
ORDER OF PROBATION REVOKED AND SUSPENSION FOR REMAINING 30 DAYS. ALL SITTING. ALL CONCUR.

Kentucky Bar Association v. Brian Patrick Curtis
2014-Sc-000400-Kb
Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law for 1 Year. All Sitting. All Concur.

Kentucky Bar Association v. Russell W. Burgin
2014-Sc-000480-Kb 
Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law for 181 Days. All Sitting. All Concur.

Kentucky Bar Association v. D. Steven Parks 
2014-Sc-000482-Kb
Order of Suspension From the Practice of Law for 30 Days. All Sitting. All Concur.

KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION V. JOHN SCOTT BENTON
2014-SC-000498-KB
ORDER OF INDEFINITE SUSPENSION. ALL SITTING. ALL CONCUR.

KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION V.  DANIEL EDWARD PRIDEMORE
2014-SC-000559-KB
ORDER OF SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR 181 DAYS. ALL SITTING. ALL CONCUR.