These Louisiana lawyers were the subject of Louisiana Supreme Court disciplinary orders or Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommendations made public during the month of November 2014.
Louisiana Supreme Court
- Daniel G. Abel. The court suspended the respondent from the practice of law on an interim basis for threat of harm. It gave no reasons for doing so.
- Charles Gary Wainwright. The court reinstated the respondent to the practice of law after he served an 18-month suspension for neglecting his clients’ legal matters, failing to communicate with his clients, failing to refund unearned fees, mishandling client funds, engaging in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal, and engaging in the practice of law while ineligible to do so.
- Christopher Luke Edwards. The court granted a joint petition filed by the respondent and ODC, and transferred the respondent to “disability inactive” status. It gave no reasons for doing so.
- Cory Scott Morton. The court disbarred the respondent. In May 2014, he was arrested for possession and possession with intent to distribute controlled dangerous substances. In June 2014, he pleaded guilty in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to money laundering an amount between $20,000 and $100,000.
- M. Robert Voitier, Jr. The court granted a joint petition filed by the respondent and ODC, and transferred the respondent to “disability inactive” status. It gave no reasons for doing so.
- David Jack Dowell. The court permanently disbarred the respondent. He had previously been disbarred and suspended for, among other things, performing unlawful notarial work from his family’s locksmith business in Gretna, Louisiana. Thereafter, the respondent continued to act as a notary despite that he had no law license and no notarial commission. Among other things, he notarized powers of attorney, lien-release affidavits, and a marriage contract.
- Steven L. Rushing. The court permanently disbarred the respondent. He pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud involving a scheme to defraud insurance companies by accepting settlement checks in personal injury cases, misrepresenting to his clients and insurers that he would use the proceeds to pay outstanding medical bills and then converting at least $6,000 of such proceeds to his own use. He had two prior suspensions.
- Gregory S. Duhy. The court suspended the respondent for a year and a day, with all but three months deferred. He failed to cooperate with the ODC in three investigations. The court further noted that “[t]he record reflects that respondent has a long history of disregarding his professional responsibilities. In fact, between 1990 and 1995, he was disciplined five times for failing to cooperate with the ODC. Nevertheless, he has continued to ignore his obligation to cooperate with the ODC as it investigates complaints of attorney misconduct. Without question, this pattern of misconduct qualifies as being ‘particularly egregious.'”
- Robert N. Clarke. The court (by consent) suspended the respondent for six months, all deferred. He mishandled his trust account by issuing checks payable to “cash,” and by allowing his account to become overdrawn.
Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board
- Mack Arthur Hollis. After the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended Mr. Hollis for a year and a day, he objected to the board’s assessment of costs against him. More particularly, he objected to the assessment of investigation costs, transcript costs, and costs labeled “Other.” He further complained that that he was “insolvent, receiving charity to meet his basic needs, and has no means to pay the costs and expenses.” The board rejected his objections and found that “all costs were legitimately assessed . . . .”
- Michael H. Bercier. The board recommended that the Louisiana Supreme Court suspend the respondent for a period of one year and one day. The board found that he attempted to mislead ODC about when he received a letter from a client terminating his representation by “fabricating an explanation,” and by adding false “notations on the envelope in which the letter was sent.” Furthermore, the board found that he lied to a lender and to his clients by failing to pay off a mortgage on succession property and then by purporting to sell that property free and clear of any encumbrances.
- Richard C. Teissier.The board recommended that the Louisiana Supreme Court suspend the respondent for a period of one year and one day, with all but sixty days deferred. The board found that the respondent practiced law while ineligible to do—he failed to comply with MCLE requirements. Furthermore, the board found that he refused to surrender a client’s file after termination. Finally, the board found that he failed to provide a written response to the complaint filed against him.
- Phyllis A. Southall. The board recommended that the Louisiana Supreme Court suspend the respondent for a period of one year and one day. The board found that she mishandled funds held in trust, did not understand basic accounting principles, and failed to cooperate with ODC’s investigation by refusing to produce her trust account records.
- Ali Zito Shields. The board recommended that the Louisiana Supreme Court suspend the respondent for a period of one year and one day. The board found that she engaged in improper notarial practices by emailing divorce pleadings to her client and instructing her client to sign her name to the counsel-of-record line on the petition and to the notary line on the verification affidavit prior to filing them with the clerk of court. Furthermore, the board found that the respondent improperly kept unearned fees and failed to cooperate with ODC’s investigation.
- Leonard E. Yokum, Jr. The board recommended that the petitioner be denied reinstatement. Among other things, the board found that Mr. Yokum did not prove that he appreciated the wrongfulness and seriousness of the conduct leading to his suspension, and that he did not prove that he understood the rules regarding the handling of client trust accounts.
Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board Hearing Committees
- William J. Jefferson. Hearing Committee No. 22 recommended that the Louisiana Supreme Court permanently disbar former congressman William J. Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson was convicted in federal court on August 5, 2009 on felony corruption charges, and sentenced to 13 years in prison. His crimes arose out of using his official position as a congressman to facilitate business deals in Africa for personal gain. Mr. Jefferson submitted a memorandum to the committee in which he argued that eight mitigating factors justified a sanction less than permanent disbarment. The committee was not persuaded: “[Mr. Jefferson’s] failure to adhere to his own personal accomplishments, maintain his reputation, the damage occasioned upon his constituents, as well as our profession, has resulted in immeasurable damage, destruction, and division among us all.”
- Steven Courtney Gill. Hearing Committee No. 56 recommended that the Louisiana Supreme Court suspend the respondent for a period of two years, all deferred, subject to participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, anger-management counseling, and out-patient substance abuse treatment. The committee found that the respondent operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated on several occasions, and was publicly intoxicated on one occasion. The committee, however, dismissed charges that the respondent failed to cooperate with ODC, and that he improperly handled funds that were the subject of a fee dispute with another lawyer, Jay Napolitano.
- Michael C. Weber. Hearing Committee No. 26 recommended that the Louisiana Supreme Court disbar the respondent. The committee found that he failed to cooperate with ODC, failed to communicate with a client, engaged in a pattern of neglect in handling a client’s matter, and failed to account for approximately $3,500 in client funds that he received but did not deposit into his trust account.