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Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 0
Attorney Name Anonymous,
DBP Docket No. 8 DB 2004
Supreme Court Docket No.
County
Disciplinary Counsel Patti S. Bednarik
Counsel for Respondent Joseph G. Price
Decision Date 2005-05-27
Effective Date 2005-04-25
Case Digest After winning a lawsuit, Respondent was sent a check for $2,461.02 by opposing counsel for damages. This amount did not even cover the costs that Respondent had incurred trying the case. However, he advised his client that he would give her $1,500. Then, Respondent failed to cash the check for $2,461.02, which was made payable to him and his client. The client complained, but no check was forthcoming. The insurance company sent notice that the check was stale, and therefore, stopped payment on the check. The insurance company then sent a check in the amount of $2,451.02 to the client, made payable to Respondent and the client. The client endorsed the check and then sent it to Respondent for his signature. Respondent again failed to negotiate the check. Thereafter, the client complained to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Respondent explained that he had felt badly that the jury had not awarded more money to his client. Therefore, he gratuitously promised her $1,500 even though he was entitled to keep the entire verdict amount to cover his costs. The Disciplinary Board found that Respondent failed to provide competent representation upon receiving the check, failed to act with diligence since he failed to take any action to reopen the case and failed to send the money that he had promised his client. Respondent failed to communicate with his client about the money and failed to answer her numerous inquiries about the funds. Respondent also violated Rule 1.15(b) by failing to deliver the money that he had promised his client in a prompt manner. Respondent testified that during this period of time, he battled with depression and personal problems. Although the Disciplinary Board did not doubt the sincerity of Respondentís testimony about his depression, Respondent did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Respondentís depression caused his misconduct. Respondentís prior disciplinary history consisted of an informal admonition in 1999 and a private reprimand in 2002.
Rule Violation(s) 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.4(b), 1.15(b)
Discipline Imposed Stayed suspension from the practice of law for a period of one year, probation for one year and compliance with a practice mo
Points of Law This disciplinary case could have been avoided if the attorney had simply written a letter to his client after the trial advising her that his costs exceeded the recovery, and therefore, she was not entitled to any part of the proceeds. In the alternative, Respondent should have promptly sent $1,500 to his client after he promised to do so.
Report/Opinion not available