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In re Howay

Supreme Court of Louisiana

May 19, 2017

IN RE: CANDACE P. HOWAY

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Candace P. Howay, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently ineligible to practice.[1]

         FORMAL CHARGES

         By way of background, respondent was previously employed by the law firm of Lundy, Lundy, Soileau & South, LLP ("Lundy"). During her employment with Lundy, respondent was responsible for handling real estate matters and the business interests of Matheson Tri-Gas ("Matheson"), a pipeline company.

         On January 14, 2015, respondent voluntarily resigned from her position at Lundy in order to become a named partner at the law firm of Bradley, Moreau, Howay & Stagg, APLC ("Bradley"). Shortly thereafter, Matheson sent Lundy a letter terminating its attorney-client relationship and indicating its intention to hire Bradley to represent its interests.

         In the process of locating all of Matheson's files for transfer to Bradley, Lundy noticed irregularities in the client trust account for Matheson. For example, respondent requested, and received, a $9, 000 check from Matheson's trust account funds made payable to Maury Miller. Respondent never submitted to Lundy's accounting department an invoice, statement, or receipt to explain the nature or purpose of the payment to Mr. Miller. Following her resignation, respondent did not respond to Lundy's attempt to contact her for information about this payment. Lundy later traced the payment and determined that Mr. Miller is respondent's cousin, and the check was deposited into a bank account belonging to Mr. Miller and Cynthia Pousson, who is respondent's mother.

         Lundy also discovered that, in June 2014, respondent requested, and received, a $1, 800 check from Lundy's operating account made payable to "The Bank." The check request did not indicate the purpose of the payment other than to suggest the funds were an advance regarding the "Matheson 2014 Pipeline Acquisitions" file. Respondent never instructed the accounting department to invoice Matheson for this payment. Lundy obtained a copy of the deposit slip corresponding to the check, which showed the funds were applied to interest for a bank loan extended on behalf of Pouvoir Ventures, LLC ("Pouvoir), a business owned by respondent's mother, Cynthia Pousson. Respondent is currently the registered agent for Pouvoir.

         After Lundy filed a disciplinary complaint against respondent, Matheson informed the ODC that respondent had complete authority to use Matheson funds at her own discretion. When specifically advised of the $9, 000 payment to Mr. Miller, Matheson expressed no concern and reiterated that respondent had authority to utilize the funds in any manner she deemed necessary. Matheson also suggested that the $1, 800 payment to The Bank came from funds that were part of Matheson's trust account balance. However, Matheson had no authority to direct respondent to take funds from Lundy's operating account, which contained only firm-owned funds.

         Respondent's written response to Lundy's disciplinary complaint only addressed the $9, 000 paid to Mr. Miller from Matheson's trust account funds. She did not address the $1, 800 paid to The Bank from Lundy's operating account. During a sworn statement given to the ODC on August 20, 2015, respondent explained her use of Lundy's operating account funds to pay a debt owed by Pouvoir by suggesting that Pouvoir may have been a potential Matheson vendor at one time. However, respondent confirmed that Pouvoir never supplied services to Lundy or Matheson. During the sworn statement, respondent also indicated she would re-examine her files to determine the reason for the disbursement of the $1, 800 from Lundy's operating account. The ODC never received any further evidence or communication from respondent.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In December 2015, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent, alleging that her conduct, as set forth above, violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct), 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer), and 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation). Respondent failed to answer the formal charges. Accordingly, the factual allegations contained therein were deemed admitted and proven by clear and convincing evidence pursuant to Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 11(E)(3). No formal hearing was held, but the parties were given an opportunity to file with the hearing committee written arguments and documentary evidence on the issue of sanctions. Respondent filed nothing for the hearing committee's consideration.

         Hearing Committee Report

         After considering the ODC's deemed admitted submission, the hearing committee determined that the factual allegations in the formal charges were deemed admitted and proven by clear and convincing evidence. Specifically, the committee found that respondent procured the $1, 800 check from Lundy and used it to pay interest for a loan benefitting her mother's business, of which respondent is the registered agent. No legitimate Lundy business existed for this transaction. During her sworn statement, respondent acknowledged the obvious suspicions regarding this transaction but could not put forth any explanation. Respondent has never offered proof of ...


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