1 Disbarment, 11 Suspensions Since Start Of Year

Compiled by James Carlson, LAW WEEK COLORADO

The Colorado Supreme Court’s Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge announced one disbarment, 11 suspensions, three public censures, one private admonition and three reinstatements for January, February and March.

Many of the suspensions involved attorneys not adequately communicating with their clients or mishandling client funds. Susan Cochrane was suspended for three years for lack of communication, lack of diligence, ignoring trust account rules and lying to disciplinary investigators.

Scott Allen Hanson was disbarred for failing to set an initial conference in a client’s divorce case, failing to respond to his client’s inquiries and then sending his client a falsified divorce decree.

 

Disbarments

People v. Hanson. 12PDJ090. March 7, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and disbarred Scott Allen Hanson (Attorney Registration Number 29873), effective March 7, 2013. In 2008, Hanson was hired to represent a woman in her divorce proceedings. Hanson and his client received an order from the court informing them that the case would be dismissed unless Hanson set an initial conference with the court. Although Hanson assured his client that he had her case under control, he failed to set the initial conference and failed to respond to his client’s inquires about her case. Hanson then sent his client a falsified copy of the decree for dissolution of her marriage. In 2012, his client sought to change her name, and she was told she would need an official copy of her divorce decree to do so. When she tried to obtain a copy of the decree from the court, she was informed that her divorce proceeding had been dismissed in 2008. Hanson’s misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of reciprocal discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.3, 1.4(a)(3), 8.1(d), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).

 

Suspensions

People v. Cochrane. 12PDJ064. January 18, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge suspended Susan Cochrane (Attorney Registration Number 33077) for three years, effective February 22, 2013. In one client matter, Cochrane neglected the client’s case, failed to adequately communicate with her client, and converted part of a retainer. She again failed to exercise reasonable diligence and converted funds in a second client matter. In addition, Cochrane ignored rules governing operation of her trust account and provided an inaccurate statement to disciplinary investigators. Hermisconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a)-(b), 1.5(b), 1.15(a), 1.15(c), 1.15(i), 1.15(j), 8.1(a), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).

 

People v. Kusic. 13PDJ021. February 25, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended John Bernard Kusic (Attorney Registration Number 04267) for sixty days, all stayed upon the successful completion of a two-year period of probation, with conditions, effective February 25, 2013. Kusic entered into a fee agreement with a client without explaining the basis of his fee. He also failed to place the client’s payments into a COLTAF account. Instead, he placed those payments into his operating account, used them to pay an interpreter, or used them for his own benefit. Kusic’s misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.5(f), 1.15(a), and 1.15(d)(1).

 

People v. Moore. 13PDJ022. March 1, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Roger Harned Moore (Attorney Registration Number 19565), for ninety days, all stayed upon successful completion of a one-year period of probation, with conditions, effective March 1, 2013. On October 12, 2011, Moore was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation with a suspended jail sentence of 180 days. He was also ordered to complete anger management and one hundred hours of public service for his conviction of Public Buildings-Impeding a Public Official, a class two misdemeanor offense pursuant to C.R.S. section 18-9-110(2). Moore timely reported his conviction to the Office of Attorney Regulation and completed all conditions of his unsupervised probation. When Moore applied for readmission to bar of the District of Columbia in 2009, however, his application for readmission contained omissions. His misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of reciprocal discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 8.1(b) and 8.4(b).

 

People v. Stevens. 12PDJ056. February 27, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved an amended conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Lisa Welch Stevens(Attorney Registration Number 28936) for one year and one day, all stayed upon the successful completion of a two-year period of probation, with conditions, effective February 25, 2013. Stevens served discovery responses bearing electronic signatures of certain clients, even though those clients had not provided information to her in response to discovery requests, nor had they reviewed the responses she drafted. Later, Stevens filed with the court a response to a motion to compel and attached thereto the discovery responses, even though those responses contained false, non-contemporaneous electronic signatures of her clients. In so doing, Stevens made both a false statement of material fact and a misrepresentation to a court. Stevens also failed to abide by the duty of communication she owed to her clients. Her misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a), 3.3(a)(1), and 8.4(c).

 

People v. Tauger. 13PDJ023. March 7, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Michael J. Tauger (Attorney Registration Number 01902) for a period of one year with conditions, effective March 7, 2013. Respondent’s license to practice law was suspended on July 23, 2011. Following his suspension, Respondent failed to file an affidavit pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.28(d) and continued to represent a client in a commercial lease dispute. During his suspension, Respondent drafted and revised legal documents, offered legal advice to his client, and participated in conferences with debtors and potential purchasers and their agents. Respondent was paid $12,451.12 for his legal services. His misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.5(a), 3.4(c), and 5.5(a)(1) and (2).

 

People v. Margulis. 13PDJ010. January 30, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended James Stanton Margulis (Attorney Registration Number 40750) for six months with the requirement of reinstatement, all stayed upon the successful completion of a three-year period of probation with conditions, effective January 30, 2013. Stanton was arrested after he became extremely intoxicated at a local restaurant and could not pay the restaurant’s bill. He pled guilty to the charge of Theft—under $500, a second-degree misdemeanor. His misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 8.4(b).

 

People v. Salaymeh. 13PDJ017. February 1, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Raja M. Salaymeh (Attorney Registration Number 33601) for six months, all stayed upon the successful completion of a two-year period of probation with conditions, effective February 1, 2013. After meeting with and accepting payment from a client, Salaymeh determined that the client had overpaid him by $182.00. For a period of approximately a week, he kept the overpayment in his desk drawer and did not record the overpayment or notify his law firm or his client of the overpayment. Salaymeh’s misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.15(a) and 1.15(l).

 

People v. Bernhardt. 12PDJ044. January 4, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Robert Leroy Bernhardt (Attorney Registration Number 28915) for one year and one day, all but sixty days stayed upon the successful completion of a three-year period of probation with conditions, effective February 8, 2013. In one matter, Bernhardt failed to respond to his client’s inquiries and to opposing counsel, and he failed to file necessary disclosures and pleadings in the case. As a result, his client’s case was dismissed with prejudice. In a second matter, Bernhardt was hired to assist a client with a modification of parenting time in a post-decree divorce case. Bernhardt failed to respond to a motion for attorney’s fees and untimely paid those fees on his client’s behalf and did not object to a motion to modify his client’s child support. Bernhardt’s misconduct caused his client to pay more child support than appropriate under the circumstances. Hismisconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4(a), 3.2, and 8.4(d).

 

People v. Cole. 10PDJ088. November 30, 2011. Attorney Regulation. The Hearing Board suspended Derek W. Cole, (Attorney Registration Number 14761), for ninety days, effective July 23, 2012. Cole failed to competently represent his client, who was accused of sexual assault on a child, pattern of abuse. Cole, who had never before accepted a case involving such charges, did not acquire sufficient knowledge or skill to conduct his client’s defense, nor did he adequately prepare or investigate the case. His misconduct in the matter constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.1.

 

People v. Coulter. 13PDJ003. January 16, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Nancy Elizabeth Coulter (Attorney Registration Number 21601) for two years, with reinstatement conditions to include restitution, effective January 16, 2013. In one matter, Coulter appeared in court smelling of alcohol, and in five others, she failed to appear in court on behalf of her clients. Coulter did not properly advance several clients’ cases, failed to communicate with them, failed to return client files, failed to communicate the basis for her fees in writing, and failed to render services for which a client had paid. Coulter’s misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.3, 1.4(a)(3), 1.5(b), 1.15(a) and (b), 1.16(d), 3.2, 3.4(c), and 8.4(d).

 

People v. Price. 12PDJ002, consolidated with 12PDJ007 and 12PDJ070. January 17, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended George C. Price (Attorney Registration Number 10652) for two years and four months, effective January 17, 2013. Price failed to properly wind-up his practice after his suspension in May 2012, failed to provide his clients notice of his suspension, and instead continued to practice law while suspended. Price also disclosed his client’s identity and case information to another law firm without obtaining his client’s consent. Finally, Price failed to provide an accounting to a client before distributing the client’s funds to a third party and failed to disclose his receipt of attorney’s fees to the law firm that employed him, keeping all of those fees for himself without the law firm’s permission. Price’s misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition ofdiscipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and (b), 1.6(a), 1.15(a) and (c), 3.3(a)(1), 3.4(c), 5.5(a), and 8.4(c).

 

Public Censures

People v. Custis. 13PDJ018. February 21, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and publicly censured Dion James Custis (Attorney Registration Number 23143), effective February 21, 2013. On November 7, 2012, Custis was publicly censured by the Wyoming Supreme Court for having engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. On behalf of his client, a criminal defendant, Custis offered money—which he described as future restitution—to the mother of a victim of child sexual assault in exchange for her more favorable sentencing recommendation regarding his client. His misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of reciprocal discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and 251.21(a).

 

People v. Stutz. 13PDJ019. March 5, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and publicly censured R. Gregory Stutz (Attorney Registration Number 03624), effective March 5, 2013. Stutz asked a client to loan him $10,000.00 without advising the client to seek independent legal advice regarding the loan or obtaining the client’s written consent to the terms of the loan. Although the terms of the note were fair, Stutz failed to make payments according to the agreed-upon timetable. Stutz’s misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and violated Colo. RPC 1.8(a).

 

People v. Kleinsmith. 13PDJ015. January 31, 2013. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and publicly censured Philip M. Kleinsmith (Attorney Registration Number 01063), effective January 31, 2013. On March 20, 2012, Kleinsmith was reprimanded by the State of Arizona for violating the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct. He was reprimanded for filing improper arbitration certificates in nine different court matters; failing to appear for two hearings in Wisconsin and billing his client for corrective motions to remedy his failures to appear; making errors in preparing a notice of sale in a Florida real estate matter; and failing to reasonably communicate with a client before filing a motion to withdraw from representation. On October 26, 2012, the State of Utah publicly reprimanded him for the same misconduct addressed in the Arizona matter. Kleinsmith’s misconduct constitutes grounds for the imposition of reciprocal discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.5 and 251.21(a).

 

Private admonition

People v. Waples-Trefil. 10PDJ131. December 6, 2012. Attorney Regulation. On remand from an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court, a Hearing Board imposed a private admonition upon Dominique Waples-Trefil (Attorney Registration Number 36986), effective January 10, 2013. Pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.6(d) and 251.31(i), the fact of this private admonition is public information but the private admonition itself may not be published or otherwise disclosed.

 

Reinstatements

People v. Sanchez. 12PDJ081. March 1, 2013. Attorney Regulation.The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a stipulation and agreement concerning reinstatement pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.29(j) and reinstated Gordon D. Sanchez (Attorney Registration Number 12919) to the practice of law, effective March 1, 2013. No opinion was issued.

 

People v. Jones. 12PDJ031. February 5, 2013. Attorney Regulation. Pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.29(b), the Presiding Disciplinary Judge reinstated D. Robert Jones (Attorney Registration Number 25393) to the practice of law, effective February 21, 2013. No opinion was issued.

 

People v. O’Buckley. 12PDJ050. December 21, 2012. Attorney Regulation. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved a stipulation and agreement concerning reinstatement pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.29 and reinstated Shawn C. O’Buckley (Attorney Registration Number 32492) to the practice of law, effective December 21, 2012. No opinion was issued.