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In re Burns

Supreme Court of Louisiana

May 1, 2018

IN RE: LIONEL LON BURNS

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This 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.

         UNDERLYING FACTS [1]

         In July 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 clerk.

         At a 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 respondent $100.

         After 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.

         The ODC 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 Conduct.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In 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 the merits.

         Formal Hearing

         The 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.

         Hearing Committee Report

         Following the formal hearing in this matter, the hearing committee summarized ...


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