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In re Moorman

Supreme Court of Louisiana

April 24, 2017

IN RE: JAMES E. MOORMAN, III

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, James E. Moorman, III, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently on interim suspension pursuant to a joint motion of the parties filed in October 2013. In re: Moorman, 13-2430 (La. 10/21/13), 128 So.3d 268.

         UNDERLYING FACTSAND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         By way of background, the misconduct at issue in this proceeding occurred over a three-month period of time in 2013, while respondent was experiencing severe depression. In August 2013, members of the judiciary and friends in the legal community conducted an intervention. Thereafter, respondent was admitted to the Ridgeview Institute ("Ridgeview") for inpatient treatment. During his treatment, respondent contacted the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP") and voluntarily surrendered his law license. Following his initial treatment for depression, respondent was transferred to the inpatient addiction program at Ridgeview, where he remained until he was discharged in December 2013. He discontinued his contract with JLAP in November 2013.

          In December 2015, the ODC filed eleven counts of formal charges against respondent. Respondent answered the formal charges and admitted much of his misconduct, but asserted that numerous mitigating factors were applicable. Prior to a hearing on the formal charges, respondent and the ODC stipulated to ten counts of the formal charges.[1] The stipulation includes the following facts and rule violations:

         The Spell Matter

         Respondent stipulated that Adrian Spell paid him $5, 000 to handle a child custody matter. Respondent's office accepted an additional payment of $1, 000 in September 2013, although it was understood that respondent would likely be out of practice due to his interim suspension. Mr. Spell had to retain other counsel. Respondent acknowledged that he failed to zealously prosecute Mr. Spell's case and that Mr. Spell is entitled to a full refund of unearned fees. Respondent also acknowledged his responsibility for the actions of his office staff, who, in his absence, accepted payment from Mr. Spell. The funds paid by Mr. Spell remain unaccounted for. Respondent has since made full restitution to Mr. Spell.

         Respondent stipulated that his conduct in the Spell matter violated Rules 1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client), 1.15 (safekeeping property of clients or third persons), 1.16 (obligations upon termination of the representation), 5.3 (failure to properly supervise a non-lawyer assistant), and 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

          The Meaux Matter

         Respondent stipulated that in June 2013, Harris Meaux hired him to handle a custody and child support matter, for which he was paid a $3, 500 deposit. Thereafter, respondent performed little to no services in the matter. Respondent acknowledged that he failed to zealously prosecute the case. Respondent also acknowledged that he converted the funds paid to him by Mr. Meaux.

         Respondent stipulated that his conduct in the Meaux matter violated Rules 1.3, 1.15, 1.16, and 8.4(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         The Scholl Matter

         Respondent stipulated that in August 2013, he was hired by Courtney Ann Scholl to represent her in connection with DWI and possession of marijuana charges, for which he was paid $1, 250. Thereafter, respondent performed little to no services in the matter. Respondent acknowledged that he failed to zealously prosecute the case. Respondent also acknowledged that he converted the funds paid to him by Ms. Scholl. He has since made full restitution to Ms. Scholl.

         Respondent stipulated that his conduct in the Scholl matter violated Rules 1.3, 1.15, and 1.16 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         The Jenkins Matter

         Respondent stipulated that he was retained to represent Donald Jenkins in a community property partition action that had been pending for many years. Respondent was paid $3, 500 to handle the matter and represented Mr. Jenkins through trial. Thereafter, respondent failed to follow up on the preparation of a qualified domestic relations order. Although he did not have billing records in the matter, respondent agreed that $474.07 of Mr. Jenkins' payment remained unearned. Respondent has since made full restitution to Mr. Jenkins.

          Respondent stipulated that his conduct in the Jenkins matter violated Rules 1.3, 1.15, and 1.16 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         The George Matter

         Respondent stipulated that in August 2013, Edwin George paid him $3, 500 to represent him in a divorce instituted by his wife. Respondent admitted that he neglected the matter, noting that although he prepared an answer to the petition, nothing was ever filed. Respondent testified that he converted at least $3, 200 in connection with this matter.

         Respondent stipulated that his conduct in the George matter violated Rules 1.3, 1.15, 1.16, 8.4(a), and 8.4(d) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         The ...


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