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TCL > November 2015 Issue > Disciplinary Case Summaries

November 2015       Vol. 44, No. 11       Page  129
From the Courts
Colorado Disciplinary Cases

Disciplinary Case Summaries

The summaries of disciplinary case Opinions and Conditional Admissions of Misconduct are prepared by the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge (PDJ) and are provided as a service by the CBA. The CBA cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries. Opinions, including exhibits, complaints, amended complaints, and summaries, are available at the PDJ website, www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PDJ/pdj.htm, and on LexisNexis.® The summaries and full-text Opinions are also accessible from the CBA website: www.cobar.org (click on "Opinions/Rules/Statutes").


Opinions Imposing Sanctions

No. 14PDJ045. People v. Carrigan. 07/28/2015. Attorney Suspended.

Following a hearing on the sanctions, a hearing board suspended Daniel W. Carrigan, attorney registration number 43029, for three years. To be reinstated, Carrigan will bear the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law. Carrigan’s suspension took effect September 1, 2015.

In three client matters where Carrigan undertook representation of criminal defendants, Carrigan disregarded his duty as a professional to obey court orders directing him to appear in court. He also disregarded his duties as a licensed lawyer to comply with the People’s requests for information. Carrigan thereby committed three separate violations of each of the following rules: Colo. RPC 3.4(c) (a lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); Colo. RPC 8.1(b) (a lawyer shall not knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority); and Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

In one of those client matters, Carrigan also failed to meet with his client, to communicate with the client about the client’s criminal case, and to return unearned fees. Through that conduct, Carrigan violated Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(2) (a lawyer shall reasonably consult with a client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer shall keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the client’s matter); and Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (a lawyer shall, on termination, take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect the client’s interests).

No. 14PDJ020. People v. Quigley. 09/18/2014. Attorney Suspended.

Following a hearing on the sanctions, a hearing board suspended Donald J. Quigley, attorney registration number 24752, for one year and one day, effective October 23, 2014. If Quigley comes into compliance with his court-ordered child support obligations during that period of suspension, he may seek reinstatement early and serve a three-year period of probation. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the hearing board’s decision on September 4, 2015.

Following the dissolution of his marriage in 2007, Quigley was ordered to pay $2,000 per month in child support. In 2011, he moved to modify that order, and then reduced his monthly support payments without court approval. More than a year later, a magistrate ruled on Quigley’s motion, ordering him to pay child support arrearages of more than $11,000 but reducing his monthly payments to approximately $650. Quigley’s petition for review of these orders was denied. He then reduced his payments to about $150 per month. As of the date of his disciplinary hearing, Quigley had not paid anything toward the arrearages.

By knowingly failing to satisfy the arrearages and to pay the monthly child support amounts, Quigley contravened Colo. RPC 3.4(c) (a lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal) and Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

No. 14PDJ107. People v. Theune. 07/21/2015. Attorney Disbarred.

Following a sanctions hearing, the PDJ disbarred Philipp Charles Theune, attorney registration number 22089, effective August 25, 2015.

Theune represented a client in a contract dispute involving the sale of real estate. After the buyer tendered $400,000 to Theune’s client, the buyer repudiated the contract, and litigation ensued. When the trial court ordered Theune’s client to return to the buyer the $400,000 plus interest, the client wire-transferred the funds to Theune’s trust account in an effort to comply with the court’s order. But Theune returned only $300,000 to the buyer, knowingly converting $100,000 for his own use. When Theune failed to answer the complaint in this matter, default was entered. Through this misconduct, Theune violated Colo. RPC 1.15(a) (2008) (a lawyer shall hold client property separate from the lawyer’s own property) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

No. 15PDJ015. People v. Weatherford. 08/11/2015. Attorney Disbarred.

Following a sanctions hearing, the PDJ disbarred William Greg Weatherford, attorney registration number 33328, effective September 15, 2015.

In 2012, a client hired Weatherford to represent her in a divorce case. She paid him a $1,750 retainer. Rather than safeguarding the retainer in his trust account, Weatherford commingled those funds with his own. Weatherford never filed any court documents on his client’s behalf. She tried numerous times to communicate with him, but he did not return her messages.

Ultimately, in early 2014, the client sent Weatherford a certified letter terminating his services and demanding that he return most of her retainer. The letter was returned marked "undeliverable." Weatherford had moved without telling the client (or the Colorado Supreme Court) his new address. Weatherford never returned any portion of the client’s retainer. Instead, he knowingly converted his client’s money to his own use. In addition, he knowingly failed to respond to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel’s requests for information during their investigation of this matter.

Through this conduct, Weatherford violated six Rules of Professional Conduct: Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(4) (a lawyer shall promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); Colo. RPC 8.1(b) (a lawyer shall not knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority); Colo. RPC 1.15(a) (2008) (a lawyer shall hold client property separate from the lawyer’s own property); and Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

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Conditional Admissions of Misconduct

The PDJ’s approval of a Conditional Admission of Misconduct does not result in a written Opinion but only a brief Order, which does not constitute precedent. Conditional Admissions of Misconduct are public record and are available for review at the Office of the PDJ, 1560 Broadway, Ste. 675, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 866-6658; www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PDJ/pdj.htm. They also are available on LexisNexis.®

No. 15PDJ078. People v. Carlson. 09/04/2015. Attorney Suspended.

The PDJ approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Alan D. Carlson, attorney registration number 11205, from the practice of law for three years. To be reinstated, Carlson will bear the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law. The suspension was effective October 9, 2015.

In one matter, Carlson agreed to represent a client in a personal injury case arising from a car accident. Carlson failed to answer written discovery, despite a court order directing him to do so. The court dismissed the case without prejudice, and the statute of limitations soon expired. Carlson did not inform his client that the case had been dismissed. Instead, he created a "distribution schedule" showing his client he was entitled to fictitious settlement proceeds; in that document, he waived attorney fees and costs and agreed to satisfy the client’s medical liens. Having learned of the purported settlement, one of the medical providers contacted Carlson, seeking payment. Carlson misrepresented the status of the matter to the provider but promised to honor the lien. After that discussion, however, Carlson did not communicate with the provider and never paid her any money.

Through this misconduct, Carlson violated Colo. RPC 1.1 (a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client); Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation); and Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

In a second matter, Carlson was retained to represent a personal injury client who had been involved in a car accident. Carlson filed suit but failed to take any action, and the court dismissed the case. Carlson did not inform his client of the dismissal. From November 2013 through April 2015, Carlson repeatedly avoided the client’s inquiries and then misled her about the status of her case; for example, he told her that he would get her money for her injuries, he represented that he had left messages with an insurance adjuster, and he asked about her availability for mediation. They set a date for a purported mediation session and agreed to drive together to the venue. On that day, however, Carlson provided the client an apology letter informing her that the case had been dismissed. The client has had no further contact with Carlson. Through this misconduct, Carlson violated Colo. RPC 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a)(3), and 8.4(c) and (d).

No. 15PDJ075. People v. Gross. 08/26/2015. Attorney Suspended.

The PDJ approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Richard Samuel Gross, attorney registration number 16008, from the practice of law for 90 days, all stayed pending the completion of a one-year period of probation, with conditions. The probation took effect August 26, 2015.

Gross settled a personal injury action for a client and helped her negotiate satisfaction of a lien held by her chiropractor. Before depositing the insurer’s settlement check into his operating account, Gross made distributions directly out of that account to his client, Medicaid, and the chiropractor. Gross later deposited the entire settlement check into his operating account to reimburse his advances. This course of conduct, which took place both before and after the Colorado Supreme Court amended Colo. RPC 1.15 in 2014, violated Colo. RPC 1.15(c) (2008) and Colo. RPC 1.15A(c) (a lawyer shall keep separate any property in which two or more persons claim interests until there is an accounting and severance of those interests).

In addition, Gross’s operating account was held personally in his own name and that of his wife. Gross therefore violated Colo. RPC 1.15(B)(a) (a lawyer in private practice shall maintain a trust account and business account in the lawyer’s own name or in the name of the lawyer’s law firm).

No. 15PDJ073. People v. Holden. 08/24/2015. Attorney Suspended.

The PDJ approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Leta R. Holden, attorney registration number 27118, from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day, all stayed pending the completion of a two-year period of probation, including the condition of undergoing practice monitoring. The probation took effect August 24, 2015.

Holden’s misconduct arose out of two separate client matters. In the first, she represented a father who sought custody of his children. Holden failed to contact a designated mediator or schedule mediation as ordered by the court. Later, she failed to cooperate with opposing counsel in preparing a joint trial management certificate. Holden appeared 90 minutes late for the resultant show cause hearing, claiming she had been stuck in traffic. She also failed over several months to open her notices from the ICCES e-filing system.

In this matter, Holden violated Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); Colo. RPC 3.4(c) (a lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); and Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

In a second matter, Holden was hired to represent a client in a dispute with an automotive repair shop. Holden neglected the case and failed to respond to multiple inquiries made by the client and his daughter. Holden did not file an answer to the repair shop’s counterclaims, nor did she respond to a motion for default judgment on those claims. As a result, the court granted the motion. Holden did not tell the client about the motion or the order. Later, the repair shop moved to dismiss the complaint and to execute on the judgment. Holden neither responded nor notified her client. The court granted the motions and entered judgment for the repair shop in the amount of more than $9,000, yet Holden still did not tell her client.

Holden’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3 and 8.4(d). In addition, she violated Colo. RPC 1.1 (a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(4) (a lawyer shall promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); Colo. RPC 1.5(b) (a lawyer shall communicate, in writing, the rate or basis of the fee and expenses within a reasonable time after commencing representation); and Colo. RPC 1.15(j) (2008) (a lawyer shall maintain certain records related to trust accounts and client billing).

During this period, Holden was experiencing mental and emotional stresses due to family problems, and her ability to represent clients was compromised, yet she did not withdraw. She thus violated Colo. RPC 1.16(a)(2) (a lawyer shall withdraw from representation if the lawyer’s physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer’s ability to represent the client).

No. 15PDJ076. People v. Jenkins. 08/31/2015. Attorney Suspended.

The PDJ approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Katherine Jane Jenkins, attorney registration number 32769, from the practice of law for 90 days, all stayed pending the completion of a two-year period of probation, with conditions. The probation took effect August 31, 2015.

Jenkins was hired to represent a client in partition and breach of contract actions against her ex-girlfriend. Jenkins did not comply with Colo. RPC 1.5(b) (a lawyer shall inform a client in writing about the lawyer’s fees and expenses within a reasonable time after being retained, if the lawyer has not regularly represented the client).

Jenkins drafted a complaint, which the client signed and returned. When she inquired of Jenkins whether the complaint had been served, Jenkins falsely responded that the complaint was "out for service." In fact, Jenkins had not sent the complaint to the process server. On a second occasion, Jenkins again falsely advised her client that the complaint had been served. Jenkins thus violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

Also in this representation, Jenkins failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, thereby violating Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(4). When the client terminated the representation, Jenkins did not provide the client’s file to her new counsel, as required by Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (a lawyer shall protect a client’s interests upon termination of the representation, including by refunding unearned fees and any papers and property to which the client is entitled).

No. 15PDJ077. People v. Priebe. 08/31/2015. Attorney Suspended.

The PDJ approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Timothy James Priebe, attorney registration number 35548, from the practice of law for six months, all stayed pending the completion of a two-year period of probation, with conditions, including undergoing a law office audit. The probation took effect August 31, 2015.

Priebe represented a client who had lost investment funds due to securities fraud. As part of a plea agreement in the securities fraud case, the defendant had been ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to Priebe’s client, plus interest, and the defendant’s wife had executed a promissory note to the client. The defendant’s wife defaulted in 2005, and the client hired Priebe in 2009.

The six-year statute of limitations on the client’s claim to collect on the promissory note expired in December 2011. Priebe incorrectly believed, however, that the statute of limitations period was three years and that the statute of limitations had expired before the client hired him. He incorrectly advised the client as to this point of law. Moreover, although Priebe believed that certain language in the promissory note might allow his client to defeat the statute of limitations defense, he never researched this issue.

Priebe suggested that the client initiate litigation against the wife, but he never filed an action on the client’s behalf. In addition to neglecting the client’s case, Priebe failed to adequately communicate with her on multiple occasions during the representation.

In this matter, Priebe violated Colo. RPC 1.1 (a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client); Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(a) (a lawyer shall reasonably communicate with the client); and Colo. RPC 1.4(b) (a lawyer shall explain a matter so as to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation).

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