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In re Vega

Supreme Court of Louisiana

May 11, 2018

IN RE: JOSE W. VEGA

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Jose W. Vega, a disbarred attorney.

         PRIOR DISCIPLINARY HISTORY

         Before we address the current charges, we find it helpful to review respondent's prior disciplinary history. Respondent was admitted to the practice of law in Louisiana in 1993. He was subsequently admitted to the Texas Bar in 2002, and to the New York Bar in 2004.

         In 2001, respondent consented to be publicly reprimanded by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. The misconduct at issue involved respondent's violations of Rules 1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client) and 1.16 (failure to properly terminate the representation of a client) of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct in connection with his representation of clients in two immigration proceedings in Louisiana between 1995 and 1997.

         In 2013, we publicly reprimanded respondent as reciprocal discipline based on public reprimands he received in two separate proceedings in Texas for conduct that occurred between 2007 and 2009. In re: Vega, 13-1456 (La. 9/20/13), 124 So.3d 456. The basis for the disciplinary charges in Texas involved respondent's failure to communicate with clients, failure to properly terminate the representation of clients, and failure to respond to a client's request for a refund of fees.

         In 2016, we disbarred respondent as reciprocal discipline after he resigned from the practice of law in Texas in lieu of discipline.[1] In re: Vega, 16-0816 (La. 9/6/16), 198 So.3d 1176 ("Vega III"). Respondent was charged in Texas with multiple rule violations stemming from numerous immigration matters, including violations of rules governing the refund of unearned fees, client communications, cooperation with disciplinary investigations, supervision of non-attorney assistants, and neglect of client matters. The misconduct at issue in Vega III began as early as 2007 in some matters and continued through February 16, 2016, when the Supreme Court of Texas accepted respondent's resignation.

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

         FORMAL CHARGES

         In September 2012, Terisita De Jesus Montejano, a Texas resident, hired respondent to represent her in an immigration matter. She paid respondent $3, 000 for the representation. In August 2014, respondent appeared with Ms. Montejano in a Texas immigration court, at which time he instructed her to file a motion for change of venue in proper person. Ms. Montejano filed the motion as directed, but it was denied as untimely. The immigration judge set a removal hearing for November 2014. At the hearing, respondent was unprepared and Ms. Montejano was ordered deported. Respondent appealed the ruling, but he did not prevail. Ms. Montejano then hired a new attorney to assist her with her immigration status.

         In April 2016, Ms. Montejano filed a disciplinary complaint against respondent with the ODC. A copy of the complaint was sent to respondent via certified mail to his office address and secondary registration address, both in Houston. The complaints were returned to the ODC with the notations "Return to Sender" and "Unable to Forward."

         The ODC contacted respondent via telephone. At that time, respondent provided the ODC with a new address in Houston and indicated he would be updating his contact information with the Louisiana State Bar Association. In May 2016, a copy of the complaint was sent to the new registered primary address. The complaint was returned to the ODC with the notations "Return to Sender" and "Unclaimed."

         The ODC eventually reached respondent via cell phone. At that time, respondent indicated he would be in Louisiana and would personally pick up the copy of the complaint on June 28, 2016. When he failed to do as promised, the ODC contacted respondent again. At that time, respondent indicated that he would ...


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