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In re Robertson

Supreme Court of Louisiana

November 28, 2017

IN RE: DARRYL L. ROBERTSON

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM.

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

         PRIOR DISCIPLINARY HISTORY

         Before we address the current matter, we find it helpful to review respondent's prior disciplinary history. Respondent was admitted to the practice of law in Louisiana in 2002. In 2009, we suspended respondent from the practice of law for one year, fully deferred, subject to one year of probation with conditions, for neglecting his client's legal matter, causing the case to be dismissed, failing to communicate with his client, failing to return the client's file, failing to respond to opposing counsel's requests, and failing to comply with federal court orders. In re: Robertson, 09-1353 (La. 10/16/09), 19 So.3d 1186 ("Robertson I").

         Against this backdrop, we now turn to a consideration of the misconduct at issue in the present proceeding.

         FORMAL CHARGES

         In January 2014, Melissa Veal's son, a middle school student in East Baton Rouge Parish, was physically attacked at the school system's bus transfer hub. In February 2014, Ms. Veal retained respondent to handle the matter, but thereafter she had difficulty contacting respondent by telephone. She then went to the clerk of court and could find no evidence that respondent had filed suit on her son's behalf. In June 2015, Ms. Veal filed a complaint against respondent with the ODC.

         In reply to Ms. Veal's complaint, respondent stated that he had been in contact with Ms. Veal several times, that he had filed suit under "Number 636, 496, Section 25, " and that there were "ongoing negotiations with the school system to reach an amicable settlement." The response gave no other information and no documentation was attached.

         The ODC took respondent's sworn statement in January 2016. During the statement, respondent confirmed that a school student was responsible for the attack against Ms. Veal's son. A juvenile proceeding was brought against the attacker. Because juvenile records are sealed, respondent was unable to discover the identity of the attacker or the outcome of the juvenile adjudication. Respondent indicated there was no police report on the attack.

         Respondent stated that he filed suit in January 2015 against the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, and the parents of the unknown juvenile attacker. In error, respondent served the school superintendent instead of the school board. The school system and the sheriff's office both filed exceptions to the suit. Respondent did not file responsive pleadings to the exceptions. The trial court ruled on the exceptions in September 2015, giving respondent thirty days to amend the petition to cure the defects. Respondent did not amend the petition or file any other pleadings in the matter.

         During his sworn statement, respondent did not appear to understand the complexities of civil law practice and procedure. When questioned about same, respondent stated that his primary area of expertise is criminal law, not civil law. Respondent realized soon after filing suit that Ms. Veal did not have a viable legal claim against the school system or the sheriff's office and would not be able to recover against either of those defendants.

         Due to his lack of experience with Louisiana civil procedure, respondent was unable to offer competent representation to Ms. Veal. Respondent admitted that he failed to properly research the case law for this type of claim and filed suit against the wrong parties.

         DISCIPLINARY ...


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