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April 2005 Archives

April 12, 2005

ADMONITION

ADMONITION

On March 6, 2005, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Admonition against an attorney for violation of Rules 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters) and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In summary:
The Office of Professional Conduct (“OPC”) received an informal complaint against an attorney. The OPC sent a Notice of Informal Complaint to the attorney requesting a written response. The attorney failed to respond to the OPC’s lawful demand for information.

ADMONITION

ADMONITION

On March 6, 2005, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Admonition against an attorney for violation of Rules 1.4(a) and (b) (Communication), 1.16(d) (Declining or Terminating Representation), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In summary:
An attorney was retained to represent a husband and wife in a termination of parental rights and step-parent adoption matter. The attorney did not timely inform the clients about hearing dates or adequately communicate with the clients to explain the process to them. The attorney also failed to protect the clients’ interests by not clearly communicating withdrawal from the representation, nor advising the clients of the consequences of withdrawal, nor cooperating with successor counsel to protect the clients.

PUBLIC REPRIMAND

PUBLIC REPRIMAND

On May 24, 2004, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Public Reprimand against David O. Drake for violation of Rules 5.3(a) and (b) (Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants) and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In summary:
Mr. Drake was retained to represent his employee in a lawsuit. Mr. Drake permitted his non-attorney employee to take a sworn statement of the defendant the employee was suing. In a second matter, Mr. Drake was retained to represent a client in a personal injury matter. Mr. Drake permitted his non-attorney employee to enter into and sign a contingent fee retainer agreement and prepare and submit a settlement demand letter to an insurance company on behalf of the client, which resulted in a substantial recovery for the client. In a third matter, Mr. Drake was retained to represent a client who was involved in an automobile accident. Mr. Drake permitted his non-attorney employee to sign a lien to a medical provider, which required an attorney’s signature. When the client’s case settled, Mr. Drake’s non-attorney employee deposited the settlement funds into an attorney trust account, which the employee had inappropriately opened without Mr. Drake’s knowledge. The settlement was safely disbursed to the client. In the course of representing these three clients, Mr. Drake failed to properly supervise his employee, and failed to ensure that his employee’s conduct was compatible with Mr. Drake’s professional obligations as a lawyer.

PUBLIC REPRIMAND

PUBLIC REPRIMAND

On February 24, 2005, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Public Reprimand against Bret Hicken for violation of Rules 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4(a) and (b) (Communication), 1.16(a) (Declining or Terminating Representation), 5.3(a), (b), and (c) (Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In summary:
Mr. Hicken was retained to pursue a collection action for an out of state client. Mr. Hicken sent demand letters to the debtors and the complaints were signed approximately five months later. The client flew to Utah to attend court hearings, but Mr. Hicken told the client that the court dates had been postponed. The client contacted Mr. Hicken on numerous occasions, but Mr. Hicken did not return the telephone calls. The client continued to send monthly billings to the debtors, and as a result of these billings later found out that the complaints had not been served upon the debtors. When the client eventually contacted Mr. Hicken, Mr. Hicken reassured the client that the work had been completed. Mr. Hicken later indicated to the client that a favorable judgment had been obtained against the debtors and requested copies of costs of the client’s trip to Utah. The client contacted Mr. Hicken to ascertain when the client would receive the money. Mr. Hicken required to withdraw from representation because of health reasons. The client contacted Mr. Hicken’s paralegal, who gave the client court dates and status updates which were false and misleading. The client subsequently retained another attorney who told the client that there was no record of any filings or of any work done. Mr. Hicken reimbursed the client’s retainer.

INTERIM SUSPENSION

INTERIM SUSPENSION

On February 17, 2005, the Honorable Fred D. Howard, Fourth Judicial District Court, entered Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order of Interim Suspension, suspending Trevor L. Zabriskie from the practice of law pending final disposition of the Complaint filed against him.

In summary:
Mr. Zabriskie was convicted of endangerment of a child, a third degree felony, in violation of Utah Code Annotated § 76-5-112.5 and sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, in violation of Utah Code Annotated § 76-9-702(3), which were later reduced to a class A misdemeanor and class B misdemeanor respectively. The interim suspension is based upon this conviction.

INTERIM SUSPENSION

INTERIM SUSPENSION

On March 4, 2005, the Honorable Leslie A. Lewis, Third Judicial District Court, entered an Order of Interim Suspension suspending Jay W. Taylor from the practice of law pending final disposition of Mr. Taylor’s resignation with discipline pending filed with the Utah Supreme Court.

DISBARMENT

DISBARMENT

On February 1, 2005, the Honorable G. Rand Beacham, Fifth Judicial District Court, entered Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Ruling and Order of Disbarment against Roy L. Bischoff disbarring Mr. Bischoff from the practice of law for violation of Rules 1.1 (Competence), 1.2(a) (Scope of Representation), 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4(a) (Communication), 1.5(a) (Fees), 1.5(b) (Fees), 1.15(b) (Safekeeping Property), 1.16(d) (Declining or Terminating Representation), 3.2 (Expediting Litigation), 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), and 8.4 (a), (c), and (d) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In summary:
Mr. Bischoff was retained to represent a client in a bankruptcy matter. The client paid a fee to Mr. Bischoff. Mr. Bischoff did not file the necessary documents with the court and the case was dismissed. In the meantime, Mr. Bischoff had moved out of state and did not inform the client of his new address. The client located Mr. Bischoff and Mr. Bischoff promised to return the client’s retainer fee and file. Mr. Bischoff did not return the client’s property. In a second matter, Mr. Bischoff was retained to represent a client in an immigration matter. The client paid Mr. Bischoff a filing and retainer fee. Mr. Bischoff moved out of state. The client located Mr. Bischoff and requested proof of filing the immigration petition. In order to appease the client, Mr. Bischoff produced a fabricated letter to the client alleging it was from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) (now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service). The client made inquiries with the INS and was told there was no record of the application. The client thereafter attempted to contact Mr. Bischoff without success. In a third matter, Mr. Bischoff was retained in debt collection matters. Despite attempts to contact Mr. Bischoff, Mr. Bischoff did not keep his clients reasonably informed of the progress of the cases. In a fourth matter, Mr. Bischoff was retained to represent a client in a lease agreement dispute. The client paid Mr. Bischoff a retainer fee and Mr. Bischoff had the client sign an agreement stating part of the fee was non-refundable. Mr. Bischoff prepared a bill and one letter for the client to review. Two months later, Mr. Bischoff moved out of state. The client attempted to contact Mr. Bischoff without success. Mr. Bischoff did not return the client’s unearned retainer or file. In a fifth matter, Mr. Bischoff represented a client to establish visitation rights. The client paid Mr. Bischoff a retainer fee. Mr. Bischoff told the client that he had filed a foreign judgment in court, but the clients never received a copy of any documents. The last communication from Mr. Bischoff was a bill, which the client paid. No visitation was ever established. The Office of Professional Conduct (“OPC”) sent Mr. Bischoff Notices of Informal Complaint in all five cases requesting that Mr. Bischoff respond in writing. Mr. Bischoff failed to respond to the OPC’s lawful demands for information.

Aggravating factors include: dishonest or selfish motive; pattern of misconduct; multiple offenses; obstruction of disciplinary proceedings; refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of the misconduct involved; vulnerability of victim; lack of timely effort to make restitution in good faith; and illegal conduct.

About April 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Utah State Bar News & Announcements in April 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2005 is the previous archive.

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