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.