IN RE: Disciplinary Counsel; -- Other; Applying For Findings and Recommendations (Formal Charges)
Permanent disbarment imposed.
Marcus R. Clark, Bernette J. Johnson, Jeffrey P. Victory, Jeannette Theriot Knoll, John L. Weimer, Greg G. Guidry, Jefferson D. Hughes, III.
[14-2038 La. 1] ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS
This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (" ODC" ) against respondent, David Jack Dowell, a disbarred attorney.
By way of background, we disbarred respondent in October 2006 for misappropriating client and law firm funds, making misrepresentations to his client and law firm, neglecting a legal matter, and failing to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation. In re: Dowell, 06-1201 (La. 10/6/06), 938 So.2d 994 (" Dowell I " ). Following his disbarment, respondent worked at his family's locksmith business in Gretna, Louisiana, where he displayed a notary sign and provided notarial services. In December 2009, we suspended respondent from the practice of law for one year for continuing to act as a notary following his disbarment, in violation of La. R.S. 35:14, and for failing to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation. In re: Dowell, 09-1419
(La. 12/18/09), 24 So.3d 203 (" Dowell II " ). The effect of our judgment in Dowell II was to extend by one year the minimum period which must elapse before respondent was eligible to seek readmission to the practice of law.
[14-2038 La. 2] Despite having already been disciplined for engaging in unlawful notarial work, respondent continued to engage in similar misconduct, as follows:
Attorney Gregory Marsiglia drafted a marriage contract for a client and advised the client of the importance of executing the marriage contract before his wedding. The client had respondent notarize the contract in November 2011, and the notarized marriage contract bears respondent's notarial stamp with his name, address, and notarial commission number.
The next day, the client and his fiancé e were married and left for their honeymoon. When the client returned from his honeymoon, he delivered the notarized marriage contract to Mr. Marsiglia so it could be properly recorded. When Mr. Marsiglia noticed that the names of the witnesses were missing, his employee called the Secretary of State's office for respondent's telephone number and learned respondent's notarial commission had been revoked on October 20, 2006 as a result of his disbarment in Dowell I. Consequently, the client's marriage contract was an absolute nullity.
In December 2011, Mr. Marsiglia filed a disciplinary complaint against respondent. Despite receiving notice of the complaint, respondent failed to respond, necessitating the issuance of a subpoena to obtain his sworn statement. During his May 15, 2012 sworn statement, respondent admitted that the notary sign was still hanging outside of his family's locksmith business where he works and that no other licensed attorneys or notaries work at that location. He also acknowledged that the notarial signature and notarial stamp on the marriage contract appeared to be his. He claimed, however, that he was unaware he could not act as a notary public.
The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct in violating La. R.S. 35:14 by continuing to act as a notary public following his disbarment and in failing to [14-2038 La. 3] cooperate with the ODC's investigation was a violation of the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 8.1(c) (failure to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation), 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of ...