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In re Webre

Supreme Court of Louisiana

January 12, 2018

IN RE: TIMON V. WEBRE

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

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

         UNDERLYING FACTS

         In October 2012, Martha Lucore retained respondent to defend her against a personal injury claim, for which respondent received a $2, 000 advance deposit towards an hourly rate of $150. On September 4, 2013, respondent sent an e-mail to Ms. Lucore advising that he intended to file a motion to dismiss the following week. However, other than enrolling as counsel and filing an answer to the petition, respondent did not take any other action in the matter.

         In November 2014, Ms. Lucore sent respondent written notice terminating the representation and requesting a refund of the fee she paid. In March 2015, after deducting the costs for filing the answer, respondent refunded $1, 728 of the fee to Ms. Lucore. Ms. Lucore retained new counsel, and the personal injury claim against her was later dismissed.

         In his sworn statement, respondent admitted that he deposited the check he received from Ms. Lucore into his personal account instead of his client trust account. There is no evidence that indicates that the funds were deposited into respondent's trust account during the course of the representation. Bank statements also show several debit card and/or ATM card withdrawals from the trust account.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In November 2016, 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 1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client), 1.4 (failure to communicate with a client), 1.5(f)(4) (when the client pays the lawyer an advance deposit to be used for costs and expenses, the funds remain the property of the client and must be placed in the lawyer's trust account), 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), 1.16(d) (obligations upon termination of the representation), and 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct).

         Respondent answered the formal charges, and the matter was set for a formal hearing before the hearing committee. Prior to the hearing, respondent and the ODC entered into a joint stipulation of facts and rule violations. In this document, respondent stipulated to the essential facts alleged by the ODC and admitted that he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct as charged, except that he did not stipulate to a violation of Rule 1.15(f).

         Hearing Committee Report

          After considering the evidence and testimony presented at the hearing, the hearing committee accepted the joint stipulations agreed to by the parties. In addition, the committee found that the evidence, including both the bank statements related to the trust account and the testimony of respondent, reflects that respondent used a debit card and an ATM card to withdraw funds from the trust account. Based on these findings, the committee determined that respondent violated the Rules of Professional Conduct as alleged in the formal charges.

         The committee found that respondent negligently violated duties owed to his client and the legal profession. His misconduct caused actual and potential harm. Respondent failed to communicate appropriately with Ms. Lucore and negligently delayed the dismissal of her matter. Respondent did not deposit Ms. Lucore's funds into his client trust account, but he used funds from his trust account to make a refund to Ms. Lucore. While there is no evidence of financial harm to Ms. Lucore, respondent's poor accounting and allocation of funds caused potential harm to other clients. After considering the ABA's Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, the committee determined the baseline sanction is suspension.

         The committee found the following aggravating factors are present: a prior disciplinary record (1998 and 2002 admonitions, both involving violations related to diligence and communication) and substantial experience in the practice of law (admitted 1988). The committee found the following mitigating factors are present: absence of a dishonest or selfish motive (he accepted the matter at a discounted rate), personal or emotional problems, [1] timely good faith effort to make restitution, cooperative attitude toward the proceedings, remorse, and remoteness of prior offenses. In addition, the committee added that respondent has a substantial litigation practice but does not normally handle ...


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