disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, Michael Louis Martin, an attorney licensed to
practice law in Louisiana.
received notice from Regions Bank that respondent's
client trust account was overdrawn on eight occasions during
the period of December 4, 2012 through January 18, 2013.
Notice of the overdraft was forwarded to respondent along
with instructions to provide the ODC with copies of bank
statements, canceled checks, and disbursement sheets, as well
as a written explanation of the circumstances relating to the
overdraft and any steps that had been taken to resolve the
matter. Respondent failed to respond to the ODC's
requests for information.
subpoenaed respondent's trust account records for the
period from June 2012 through August 2013. After reviewing
various bank documents from the account, including bank
statements and canceled checks, the ODC staff auditor, Traci
D. Fontenot, concluded that respondent had converted and
commingled client trust funds and had misused his trust
account on numerous occasions by writing checks payable to
cash and by paying personal bills from the account.
ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated the
following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct:
Rules 1.15(a) (safekeeping property of clients or third
persons), 1.15(f) (cash withdrawals and checks made payable
to "Cash" are prohibited on client trust accounts),
and 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct).
December 2015, the ODC filed formal charges against
respondent. 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
reviewing the ODC's deemed admitted submission, the
hearing committee found that the factual allegations in the
formal charges were deemed admitted and proven by clear and
convincing evidence. Based on these facts, the committee
determined that respondent violated the Rules of Professional
Conduct as charged. In addition, the committee found a
violation of Rule 8.1(c) (failure to cooperate with the ODC
in its investigation).
committee cited Standard 4.12 of the ABA's Standards
for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions which provides that
suspension is generally appropriate when a lawyer knows or
should know that he is dealing improperly with client
property and causes injury or potential injury to a client.
The committee also cited Standard 7.2 which provides that
suspension is generally appropriate when a lawyer knowingly
engages in conduct that is a violation of a duty as a
professional and causes injury or potential injury to a
client, the public, or the legal system.
aggravation, the committee found a dishonest or selfish
motive and substantial experience in the practice of law
(admitted 1984). The committee also noted respondent's
failure to cooperate with the ODC. In mitigation, the
committee found the absence of a prior disciplinary record
and the imposition of other penalties and sanctions.
considering the aforementioned factors and the collective
misconduct, the committee recommended respondent be suspended
from the practice of law for three years. The committee also
recommended respondent be ordered to account for funds in the
trust account during the audit period and pay restitution.