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In re Garrett

Supreme Court of Louisiana

November 17, 2017

IN RE: WAYNE E. GARRETT

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Wayne E. Garrett, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana.

         UNDERLYING FACTS

         15-DB-015

         Respondent represented a client in a personal injury claim stemming from a 2006 accident, after which the client sought treatment for her injury at Natchez Rehab and Sports Specialists ("NRSS"). In June 2007, respondent sent a guarantee letter to Sherry Norman, the administrator of NRSS, in which he acknowledged that any balance remaining on the NRSS bill that was not paid by medical insurance would be paid out of the claim proceeds.

         The case settled in 2010. The settlement proceeds were deposited and distributed in February 2010. The amount due to the client was paid in full; however, respondent did not notify NRSS of the settlement, and the settlement distribution statement reflects that he failed to withhold funds from the proceeds for payment of the NRSS bill.

         In December 2010, Ms. Norman spoke with respondent to advise him of the situation, but subsequent calls from NRSS to respondent were not answered. In

          February 2011, a representative from NRSS sent a written request for payment to respondent via certified mail. Although the letter was successfully delivered, NRSS received no response from respondent.

         In March 2011, NRSS filed a complaint against respondent with the ODC. In October 2012, respondent forwarded a $500 check to NRSS along with a letter indicating that the $505 balance would be forwarded in the next thirty days. Respondent did not pay the remaining balance until December 2014.

         The 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(d) (failure to timely remit funds to a client or third person), and 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct).

         16-DB-051

         On November 26, 2014, the ODC received notice of an overdraft in respondent's client trust account. Thereafter, the ODC's forensic auditor performed an audit of the account for the period of June through December of 2014. According to the auditor's report, respondent misused, commingled, and converted funds in his trust account during that time, and his records reflected procedural and accounting errors. Respondent's trust account balance also fell below the amount necessary to honor the funds deposited. The auditor concluded that respondent failed to maintain the safety of money deposited for disbursement, did not transfer attorney's fees as earned, and failed to properly document his records for disbursement changes to ensure that he handled the account properly.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.15(a), 1.15(b) (a lawyer may deposit the lawyer's own funds in a client trust account for the sole purpose of paying bank service charges or obtaining a waiver of ...


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