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In re Conry

Supreme Court of Louisiana

January 28, 2015

IN RE: JOHN D. CONRY

Charles Bennett Plattsmier, Yolanda Cezar, OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL, For Applicant.

John Conry, CONRY & ASSOCIATES, LLC, For Respondent.

CRICHTON, J., concurring and assigning additional reasons.

OPINION

Page 787

[14-1761 La. 1] ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

PER CURIAM[*]

This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (" ODC" ) against respondent, John D. Conry, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently on interim suspension for threat of harm to the public. In re: Conry, 10-1929 (La. 8/25/10), 42 So.3d 376.

UNDERLYING FACTS

11-DB-035

The Whitney National Bank Matter

The following facts are not in dispute, having been stipulated to by the parties:

During the relevant time frame, respondent held his client trust account at Whitney National Bank. On November 22, 2006, Whitney charged a $30 overdraft fee to the account. As of November 30, 2006, respondent's account was overdrawn by $2,608.62. On July 17, 2007, Whitney charged a $32 overdraft fee to the account. As of July 31, 2007, respondent's trust account was overdrawn by $12,915.26. Respondent made a $500 deposit to the account during the month of August, but as of August 31, 2007, the account was still overdrawn by $12,415.26.

[14-1761 La. 2] In addition to overdrawing his trust account, respondent used the account to make a $249 car payment to Capital One Auto on March 30, 2007. He used the account on June 12, 2007 to make a $275 payment to Sprint and used it again on June 26, 2007 to make another $300 payment to Sprint. On July 6, 2007, respondent used his trust account to make a $2,092.24 payment to Lexis-Nexis and a $330 payment to Sprint.

On August 14, 2007, Whitney filed suit against respondent to collect the $12,915.26 overdraft. According to the petition, respondent attempted to cover this overdraft on July 16, 2007 by depositing a $19,500 personal check drawn on the account of Reine S. Pema Sanga/John D. Conry. However, this check was returned due to insufficient funds in the account.

On November 28, 2007, respondent made a $14,364.48 payment to Whitney via a cashier's check. On December 3, 2007, the judge presiding over the Whitney suit signed a motion for satisfaction of docket as the matter had been " compromised and resolved completely."

Respondent stipulated that his conduct violated Rule 1.15 (safekeeping property of clients or third persons) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Page 788

The Watson Matter

The following facts are not in dispute, having been stipulated to by the parties:

On November 9, 2007, Waymond Watson filed a disciplinary complaint against respondent. According to the complaint, in May 2006, Mr. Watson paid respondent a $900 fee to represent him in a child support matter. After discovering that the state of Florida had jurisdiction over the matter, Mr. Watson retained counsel licensed to practice law in Florida. Via an email dated August 28, 2007, Mr. Watson requested that respondent refund the $900 fee.

[14-1761 La. 3] Respondent agreed to refund the $900 as well as an additional $100 for the " inconvenience caused." On November 27, 2007, approximately three months after his first request for a refund and after several email exchanges between respondent and Mr. Watson regarding respondent's failure to refund the fee, respondent finally provided the $1,000 refund.

Respondent stipulated that his conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client), 1.15(d) (failure to timely remit funds to a client or third person), 1.15(e) (when in the course of representation a lawyer is in possession of property in which two or more persons claim interests, the property shall be kept separate by the lawyer until the dispute is resolved), and 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct).

The First Chase Bank Matter

The following facts are not in dispute, having been stipulated to by the parties:

During the relevant time frame, respondent held his client trust account at Chase Bank. On January 10, 2008, a $20,000 check drawn on the account was presented for payment at a time when the account balance was only $5,038.75. The check was returned unpaid, and Chase charged a $25 fee to the account. However, the check cleared the account several days later without incident.

Respondent stipulated that his conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.15 and 8.4(a).

The Ardoin Matter

The following facts are not in dispute, having been stipulated to by the parties:

[14-1761 La. 4] In the summer of 2007, Raquel Ardoin hired respondent to represent her in an EEOC matter. The fee agreement was a $2,000 fee to be paid in installments. Ms. Ardoin claimed she forwarded one installment payment of $150.

Respondent acknowledged that, in October 2007, Ms. Ardoin forwarded him a right to sue letter she received from EEOC. Respondent informed Ms. Ardoin he was too busy to attend to her legal matter but agreed to work on her case until she was able to retain new counsel. Respondent then failed to timely file her claim.

Respondent stipulated that his conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.3, 1.4 (failure to communicate with a client), and 8.4(a).

The Second Chase Bank Matter

Between January 2010 and May 2010, the ODC received several notices from Chase that respondent's client trust account had been overdrawn. Respondent failed to fully cooperate with the ODC in its investigation of this matter by failing to provide the ODC with all requested documents.

The ODC's auditor reviewed respondent's trust account for the period of July 2009 through March 2010 and discovered the following: several online transfers

Page 789

from respondent's operating account to his trust account, several checks deposited to the trust account which were returned because of improper endorsements, and a schedule of negative daily balances in the operating account along with corresponding transfers from the trust account to the operating account to cover the shortages. Additionally, respondent's trust account bank statement for January 2010 indicated total deposits of $49,217.36, of which $42,249.74 (85% of total deposits) was transferred to respondent's operating account. In February 2010, [14-1761 La. 5] the total deposits in the trust account were $95,818.73, of which $58,163.00 (60% of total deposits) was transferred to the operating account. In March 2010, the total deposits in the trust account were $28,330.79, of which $26,750.00 (94% of total deposits) was transferred to the operating account. Finally, the auditor's report indicated that, between July 2009 and March 2010, respondent received settlement checks totaling $651,820.60 for thirty-eight clients. Eighteen of the clients received no funds from their settlements, and the auditor determined that respondent converted approximately $188,000 of the funds to his own use.

On May 29, 2010, respondent's trust account was overdrawn by $10,504.87. On June 3, 2010, respondent transferred funds in that amount from his operating account to the trust account; however, after the transfer, the operating account was overdrawn by $10,666.23. On July 16, 2010, Chase closed respondent's trust and operating accounts and refused payment of any checks presented on either account.

After Chase ended its banking relationship with respondent, he opened a new trust account with Omni Bank. Respondent did not report the new trust account to the disciplinary board.

The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.15, 8.1(c) (failure to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation), and 8.4(a).

11-DB-046

The Melendez Matter

The following facts are not in dispute, having been stipulated to by the parties:

In January 2009, Rosa Melendez hired respondent to represent her in a personal injury matter. In September 2010, respondent sent Ms. Melendez a $2,871.29 settlement check, drawn on the account of " I Write It Inc."

When Ms. Melendez complained to the ODC, she indicated that respondent never consulted with her before entering into a settlement agreement. She also [14-1761 La. 6] indicated that she never endorsed a check from the insurance company and had no knowledge of the settlement amount. Finally, she complained that she made several attempts to contact respondent, to no avail.

[14-1761 La. 7] Respondent stipulated that his conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.2 (scope of the representation), 1.4, 1.16 (obligations ...


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