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In re Morris

Supreme Court of Louisiana

May 19, 2017

IN RE: STACY LYNN MORRIS

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM.

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Stacy Lynn Morris, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana, but currently suspended from practice.

         PRIOR DISCIPLINARY HISTORY

         Before we address the current charges, we find it helpful to review respondent's prior disciplinary history. Respondent was originally admitted to the practice of law in Louisiana in 2000. In 2014, we suspended respondent from the practice of law for a period of three years for conduct occurring from 2004 through 2008. Her misconduct included neglect of a legal matter, failure to communicate with a client, commingling and conversion of client funds, sharing fees with a nonlawyer, and failure to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation. In re: Morris, 14-1067 (La. 10/15/14), 149 So.3d 229 ("Morris I").

         Against this backdrop, we now turn to a consideration of the misconduct at issue in the instant proceeding, which occurred long after the misconduct at issue in Morris I.[1]

         UNDERLYING FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In July 2012, James Conant retained respondent to represent him in a personal injury matter stemming from an automobile accident. Following the accident, Mr. Conant sought medical treatment at Hardy Chiropractic Center ("HCC"). Respondent sent HCC a letter guaranteeing that payment for medical services would be withheld from any future settlement.

         Mr. Conant's case settled in November 2013. Respondent disbursed the settlement funds to her client in December 2013, and although she withheld $2, 161 for medical expenses, she did not pay this amount to HCC, in effect making Mr. Conant personally responsible for the charges. In March 2015, HCC filed a complaint against respondent with the ODC. The complaint was sent to respondent via certified mail at her bar registration address and three other addresses; however, she did not respond.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In November 2015, the ODC filed one count of formal charges against respondent, alleging that her conduct violated Rules 1.15 (safekeeping property of clients or third persons) and 8.1(c) (failure to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Respondent answered the formal charges and denied any misconduct. Respondent also indicated that she never received notice of the original complaint.

         Formal Hearing

         The matter proceeded to a formal hearing, which was conducted by the hearing committee in March 2016. During the hearing, respondent stipulated to the formal charges.[2] She testified that her failure to pay HCC was an oversight because the client had been paid and it was office procedure to disburse all funds at the same time. Respondent also testified that she did not receive any correspondence from HCC notifying her that funds were owed. Respondent admitted that she did not reconcile her trust account and did not know how to reconcile her trust account.

         In mitigation, respondent introduced medical documents and testified that she suffered from numerous medical conditions. Respondent also testified that she had to cope with the ...


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