disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, Lionel Lon Burns, an attorney licensed to
practice law in Louisiana.
2013, respondent began representing the defendants in a civil
case captioned Ultimate Entertainment LLC v. Marcel
Morton and Down South Entertainment LLC, pending before
Judge Michael Mentz in the 24th Judicial District
Court for the Parish of Jefferson. Judge Mentz scheduled a
pre-trial conference for September 4, 2013. Respondent was
unable to attend the pre-trial conference and sent his
paralegal, Randy Tucker, to the conference instead. Mr.
Tucker never advised court personnel or opposing counsel that
he was not an attorney. Instead, Mr. Tucker participated in
the conference and later engaged in settlement discussions
with opposing counsel in the presence of Judge Mentz' law
subsequent October 8, 2013 contempt hearing, respondent
insisted that Mr. Tucker had identified himself as a
non-lawyer to court personnel. Respondent's statement was
contradicted by court personnel and opposing counsel, and
respondent did not call Mr. Tucker to testify in rebuttal
even though Mr. Tucker was present for the contempt hearing.
Following the contempt hearing, Judge Mentz found respondent
in direct contempt of court for sending a non-lawyer to a
lawyers-only pre-trial conference with the apparent intention
of negotiating a settlement. Judge Mentz also fined
Judge Mentz filed a disciplinary complaint against
respondent, respondent provided the ODC with a sworn
statement regarding the matter. During the sworn statement,
respondent indicated that his sole purpose in sending Mr.
Tucker to the pre-trial conference was to obtain a
continuance. Respondent also indicated that he sent Mr.
Tucker to the conference with a motion to continue bearing
respondent's signature to present to Judge Mentz.
However, Mr. Tucker denied that respondent provided him with
such a motion, and court personnel indicated that no such
motion was ever presented for filing.
alleged that respondent's conduct violated Rules 5.5(a)
(a lawyer shall not practice law in violation of the
regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or
assist another in doing so) and 8.4(a) (violation of the
Rules of Professional Conduct) of the Rules of Professional
August 2016, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent.
Respondent answered the formal charges, denying any
misconduct. The matter then proceeded to a formal hearing on
hearing committee conducted the formal hearing in December
2016. Both the ODC and respondent introduced documentary
evidence and called several witnesses to testify before the
committee. Respondent also testified on his own behalf and on
cross-examination by the ODC.
the formal hearing in this matter, the hearing committee