IN RE: VIVICA D. SMITH PIERRE
IN RE: Disciplinary Counsel; In Re: Confidential Party; - Other(s); Applying For Joint Motion For Consent Discipline Pursuant To Rule XIX, Section 20.
Consent discipline accepted.
Bernette J. Johnson, John L. Weimer, Greg G. Guidry, Marcus R. Clark, Jefferson D. Hughes, III. KNOLL, J., dissenting. CRICHTON, J., dissenting.
ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (" ODC" ) commenced an investigation into allegations that respondent commingled and converted client funds, failed to promptly provide an accounting to her client, and made dubious entries on the belated accounting to justify the retention of the client's funds. Prior to the filing of formal charges, respondent and the ODC submitted a joint petition for consent discipline, in which the parties stipulated that respondent has violated Rules 1.4(a), 1.5(f)(3), 1.5(f)(5), 1.15(c), 1.15(d), 8.4(a), and 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Having reviewed the petition,
IT IS ORDERED that the Petition for Consent Discipline be accepted and that Vivica D. Smith Pierre, Louisiana Bar Roll number 22625, be suspended from the practice of law for a period of three years, subject to the conditions set forth in the petition for consent discipline.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all costs and expenses in the matter are assessed against respondent in accordance with Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 10.1, with legal interest to commence thirty days from the date of finality of this court's judgment until paid.
KNOLL, J., dissenting
While I agree respondent's conduct warrants discipline, I would reject the petition for consent discipline on the ground the three-year suspension proposed by the parties is unduly lenient under the facts presented. Respondent's actions reveal a fundamental lack of moral fitness. As such, I believe the only appropriate sanction is disbarment.
The facts, as stipulated by the parties, reveal respondent engaged in a pattern of overbilling and fraudulent billing of her client, as well as repeated instances of commingling, conversion and misuse of client funds. The true magnitude of respondent's conversion is unclear from the petition, but respondent acknowledges that she converted at least $10,514.07, which was entrusted to her by the client to pay a third party. Despite this acknowledgment, respondent has not made any effort to pay restitution over the last eight years.
In the landmark case of Louisiana State Bar Ass'n v. Hinrichs, 486 So.2d 116 (La. 1986), we explained that when a lawyer converts client funds, disbarment is generally appropriate when one or more of the following elements are present: the lawyer acts in bad ...