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In re Moorman

Supreme Court of Louisiana

March 2, 2018

IN RE: JAMES E. MOORMAN, III

         ON APPLICATION FOR REINSTATEMENT

          PER CURIAM

         This proceeding arises out of an application for reinstatement to the practice of law filed by petitioner, James E. Moorman, III, a suspended attorney.

         UNDERLYING FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Over a three-month period of time in 2013, while petitioner was experiencing severe depression, he engaged in misconduct involving neglect of his clients' legal matters, failure to refund unearned fees, and failure to properly supervise his non-lawyer staff. Specifically, petitioner collected approximately $16, 500 in fees from clients and then failed to provide the services for which he was paid.

         In August 2013, members of the judiciary and friends in the legal community conducted an intervention. Thereafter, petitioner was admitted to the Ridgeview Institute ("Ridgeview") for inpatient treatment. During his treatment, petitioner contacted the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP") and voluntarily surrendered his law license by joining the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") in filing a joint petition for his interim suspension. After considering the joint petition, we suspended petitioner from the practice of law on an interim basis. In re: Moorman, 13-2430 (La. 10/21/13), 128 So.3d 268.

         Following his initial treatment for depression, petitioner was transferred to the inpatient addiction program at Ridgeview, where he remained until he was discharged in December 2013. He discontinued his contract with JLAP in November 2013.

         In December 2015, the ODC filed formal charges against petitioner. Petitioner stipulated that he engaged in the alleged misconduct and had made restitution of approximately half of the $16, 500 in unearned fees he collected from his clients. For this misconduct, we suspended petitioner from the practice of law for three years, retroactive to the date of his interim suspension, and ordered him to make restitution to his clients or the Louisiana State Bar Association's Client Assistance Fund ("CAF"), as appropriate. In re: Moorman, 17-0431 (La. 4/24/17), 217 So.3d 316 ("Moorman I").

         In July 2017, more than three years after the effective date of petitioner's suspension, petitioner filed an application for reinstatement with the disciplinary board, alleging he has complied with the reinstatement criteria set forth in Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 24(E). The ODC took no position regarding the application for reinstatement. Accordingly, the matter was referred for a formal hearing before a hearing committee.

         During the hearing, testimony and evidence was presented indicating that petitioner has seen a therapist to deal with his depression since January 2014 and is no longer depressed. Further evidence presented at the hearing indicated that petitioner made restitution to six of the ten clients who were the subject of Moorman I. The remaining four clients were reimbursed through the CAF, which provided a certificate showing payments totaling $10, 235.61 were made to these four clients. Petitioner provided the hearing committee with a copy of a promissory note he signed on May 2, 2017, in which he promised to pay the CAF $10, 235.61 by making monthly payments of $100 beginning June 1, 2017. Finally, petitioner provided evidence of his monthly payments to the CAF.

         Following the hearing, the hearing committee recommended that petitioner be reinstated to the practice of law on a conditional basis for one year, with the following conditions:

1. Petitioner must enter into a one-year contract with JLAP;
2. Petitioner must continue mental health counseling with a therapist for one year;
3. A practice monitor shall be appointed through the disciplinary board for the purpose of monitoring petitioner's law practice and shall include monitoring for compliance with trust account rules, accounting procedures, law office management procedures, adequate communications with clients, diligence in the representation of ...

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