These Louisiana lawyers were the subject of Louisiana Supreme Court disciplinary orders or Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommendations made public during the month of April 2014.
Louisiana Supreme Court
- Sonceree Smith Clark. The court granted the respondent’s petition for consent discipline; and it publicly reprimanded her for neglecting a legal matter, failing to communicate with a client, and failing to promptly refund an unearned fee.
- Robert T. Garrity, Jr. The court granted the respondent’s petition for consent discipline, and it suspended him from the practice of law for six months for commingling unearned fees with client funds in his trust account and failing to provide a reasonable periodic accounting to a client. The entire suspension was deferred, subject to the respondent’s successful completion of a one-year period of supervised probation.
Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board
- Charles Tanner Phillips, II. The board recommended that the respondent be disbarred from the practice of law, and it recommended that the respondent be ordered to pay restitution to his clients and to the Client Assistance Fund. The board based its recommendation on formal charges consisting of twenty-seven counts filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. These charges included failing to return an unearned fee, participating in the unauthorized practice of law, engaging in dishonest, fraudulent, or deceitful conduct, and failing to cooperate with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in its investigation.
- Chanci Shermaine Shaw. The board recommended that the respondent be permanently disbarred from the practice of law, and it also recommended that she be ordered to make restitution in the amount of $5,722. The respondent failed to provide a client with an accounting of a settlement, failed to provide the same client with the proceeds of the settlement, and failed to account to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for the settlement proceeds despite being asked to do so.
- Margaret Ford. The board recommended that the respondent be adjudged guilty of additional rule violations, which should be considered when and if she applies for readmission to the practice of law. The board also recommended that the time period in which the respondent can seek readmission be extended by one year, and this extension was based on her failure to cooperate with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in the investigation of the matter. The respondent neglected five client matters, failed to communicate with her clients, and failed to return unearned fees. She had previously been suspended twice for similar misconduct.
- Kearney Soniat Dufossat Loughlin. The board recommended that the respondent be reprimanded, and it also recommended that the respondent be required to attend a continuing legal education program on lawyer advertising. The respondent posted on his website that he specialized in maritime and personal injury death cases, but the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization recognizes no such specialty.
Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board Hearing Committees
- Deidre Katrina Peterson. Hearing Committee No. 8 recommended that the formal charges against the respondent be dismissed. The Committee found that the fee the respondent charged her client, who was a prisoner at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, was not excessive or unreasonable considering the work she performed for the client. The Committee found that the respondent provided adequate legal services for the client over a five-year period, though she was unable to obtain a release from his sentence of life imprisonment.
- Michael H. Bercier. Hearing Committee No. 44 recommended that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for three years, with two years deferred, subject to two years of supervised probation and restitution in the amount of $23,250. The charges against the respondent included attempting to defraud another attorney out of his fee interest in a case, attempting to solicit his client’s assistance in a fraudulent scheme, filing a suit on behalf of a client who had already terminated the respondent’s services, misrepresenting facts and altering evidence given to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and concealing the existence of an outstanding mortgage from the buyers, real estate agent, and closing attorney in a real estate transaction.
- Steven L. Rushing. Hearing Committee No. 20 recommended that the respondent be permanently disbarred from the practice of law. The respondent was convicted of mail fraud in connection with a scheme to convert client funds previously earmarked to pay healthcare providers out of a settlement. The respondent had been previously suspended from the practice of law for violating various rules and committing professional misconduct.