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In re Abdalla

Supreme Court of Louisiana

October 18, 2017

IN RE: ADAM ANTHONY ABDALLA

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM.

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Adam Anthony Abdalla, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently on interim suspension pursuant to a joint petition filed by the parties in October 2014. In re: Abdalla, 14-2142 (La. 10/22/14), 149 So.3d 1222.

         UNDERLYING FACTS

         Respondent was formerly employed by the Lafayette law firm of Andrus, Boudreaux, Landry & Coussan (the "firm"). In September 2014, the ODC received a complaint alleging that respondent had converted funds from the firm. Specifically, the complaint alleged the following facts, to which the parties herein have stipulated:

1. Respondent wrote three unauthorized checks to himself out of the client escrow account. The checks were made payable to Orange Ocean, LLC, a single member LLC with respondent listed as the sole member, in the amounts of $5, 125, $2, 500, and $5, 000. These funds were being held in escrow as part of a commercial transaction on behalf of a client.
2. Respondent wrote two unauthorized checks to himself out of the client escrow account. The checks were made payable to Abdalla Enterprises, LLC, a single member LLC with respondent listed as the sole member, in the amounts of $2, 000 and $800. These funds were held in escrow pursuant to an Escrow Agreement, signed by respondent, which stated that the firm would be compensated $2, 500 by the client for its services. Although fees were due to the firm, no checks were made payable to the firm.
3. Respondent wrote an unauthorized check to Belle Realty of Lafayette, LLC ("Belle") in the amount of $5, 910.86 from the firm's operating account, an account on which he never had signing authority. Belle is a commercial real estate company owed by respondent's parents. Respondent claimed the check was for rent payable to Belle and written on behalf of a firm client, and that the firm would be reimbursed by the client through a corresponding invoice. Respondent never billed any client for the corresponding amount paid to Belle.
4. A client wrote a $1, 000 check to "Adam - Boudreaux" as a retainer for legal services. Respondent endorsed the check and deposited it into his personal account. Respondent never tendered these funds to the firm, and the firm continued to provide legal services to the client.
5. Respondent created fraudulent invoices on fictitious firm letterhead for two clients for legal services rendered. One client paid respondent $11, 500 by check made payable to respondent.[1] Respondent never tendered these funds to the firm, and the firm continued to provide legal services to the client.
6. Respondent performed legal services for three clients, including formation of corporate entities and drafting of resolutions, and instructed the clients to pay him cash directly for those services. The clients paid respondent cash in the total amount of $1, 250. Respondent never tendered these funds to the firm.
7. A client, Blanc Bridal, LLC, paid respondent in cash for legal services rendered through the firm. Respondent created a $3, 500 invoice, which he then voided. The firm did not receive the funds for the legal work performed by respondent.
8. A client, Corey Devan Willis, paid respondent $500 in cash for legal services. Respondent marked a $500 invoice to Mr. Willis as paid in full, but he never turned over these funds to the firm.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In September 2015, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent, alleging that his 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) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

         Respondent answered the formal charges, admitting his misconduct and requesting a hearing in mitigation. He also pointed out that he had reimbursed the firm for all the funds he had converted, as well as the expenses incurred by the firm for attorney's fees and accounting costs.

         Mitigation Hearing

         The hearing committee conducted the mitigation hearing in July 2016. Prior to the hearing, the parties entered into a joint stipulation of facts. The joint stipulation included the parties' stipulations concerning the specific allegations of misconduct included in the formal charges, as set forth above, as well as the following additional stipulations:

1. Respondent has admitted taking the funds and has reimbursed the firm for all funds that he has converted that are known to the firm.
2. All funds were taken from the firm and none were taken from individual clients.
3. Respondent stole the money to support a drug habit as he routinely used hydrocodone and is addicted to same.[[2]
4. Respondent voluntarily enrolled in Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center for a ninety-day rehabilitation program after the complaint was filed with the ODC.
5. Respondent successfully completed the ninety-day program and enrolled in the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP") after completing his treatment. Further, respondent entered into a five-year contract with JLAP.
6. There are no criminal charges pending against respondent.
7. Respondent's misconduct violates Rules 8.4(a), 8.4(b), and 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
8. Respondent's actions harmed the firm, the public, and the legal profession.
9. The aggravating factors present in this matter include a pattern of misconduct ...

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