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In re Hunter

Supreme Court of Louisiana

May 18, 2018

IN RE: RAUSHANAH SHAKIA HUNTER

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

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

         FORMAL CHARGES

         Count I - The Bell Matter

         By way of background, Haneefah Solomon Bell and her minor daughter allegedly developed significant health problems because their apartment complex failed to properly maintain, clean, and remediate a mold infestation. Ms. Bell secured the services of an environmental consulting firm who tested the apartment complex for toxic material and mold and provided Ms. Bell with a report dated November 9, 2012.

         In November 2013, Ms. Bell hired respondent to handle the personal injury claim arising out of the mold contamination of the apartment complex, at which time she provided respondent with a copy of the November 9, 2012 mold report. Ms. Bell also indicated that respondent agreed to represent her and her daughter and file a lawsuit on their behalf. Ms. Bell further indicated that respondent advised her the fee arrangement was "no fee until case was settled." According to Ms. Bell, she did not sign a written contingency fee agreement, and respondent did not provide her with a copy of any such agreement.

         On November 12, 2013, respondent filed a petition for damages on behalf of Ms. Bell and her daughter. On October 10, 2014, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion was set for hearing on February 23, 2015. Respondent did not appear for the hearing and did not file any pleadings in opposition to the motion. Accordingly, the judge granted the defendant's motion, and the case was dismissed. Respondent failed to inform Ms. Bell of the dismissal.

         In September 2015, following respondent's repeated failures to provide Ms. Bell with requested status updates, Ms. Bell sought the advice of another attorney, who advised Ms. Bell that her case had been dismissed due to respondent's failure to file an opposition to the motion for summary judgment or appear at the related hearing. Thereafter, Ms. Bell attempted to contact respondent via telephone, via text messages, and by stopping by respondent's office and home. None of these efforts were successful. In one instance, respondent answered Ms. Bell's telephone call but pretended Ms. Bell had the wrong number.

         In October 2015, Ms. Bell filed a disciplinary complaint against respondent, indicating that her numerous attempts to obtain her file materials, including the November 9, 2012 mold report, from respondent had been unsuccessful. Respondent failed to claim the notice of the complaint sent via certified mail, necessitating the issuance of a subpoena to obtain her sworn statement. On December 1, 2015, respondent appeared for her sworn statement with a written response to the complaint. However, she failed to provide the ODC with Ms. Bell's file, despite being instructed to do so on the subpoena.

         During the sworn statement, the ODC instructed respondent to immediately return to Ms. Bell all file materials Ms. Bell had provided to her. The ODC also instructed respondent to advise Ms. Bell in writing that she had committed malpractice, that she now had a conflict of interest because of the potential malpractice claim, and that Ms. Bell should consult with independent counsel of her own choosing. Respondent failed to follow any of these instructions.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct 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), 1.7 (conflict of interest), 8.1(c) (failure to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation), and 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

         Count II - The Jones Matter

         In June 2013, Ernest Jones hired respondent to represent him in a work place discrimination and harassment lawsuit against his former employer, the Louisiana Department of Revenue ("LDR"). Mr. Jones paid respondent an advanced attorney fee of $600 and an additional $520 for filing fees.

         On August 1, 2013, respondent filed the lawsuit against the LDR on Mr. Jones' behalf. After Mr. Jones provided his deposition, the LDR filed a motion for summary judgment. Respondent failed to respond to the motion or attend the related hearing on June 16, 2014. Accordingly, the judge granted the motion, and Mr. Jones' lawsuit was dismissed.

         In January 2016, Mr. Jones filed a disciplinary complaint against respondent, indicating that he had been unable to contact or meet with respondent since May 2014, despite his numerous attempts. Respondent received notice of the complaint via certified mail but failed to respond, necessitating the issuance of a subpoena to obtain her sworn statement.

         Respondent appeared for the sworn statement on March 22, 2016 but failed to bring a copy of Mr. Jones' file as requested on the subpoena. During the sworn statement, respondent acknowledged receiving the complaint but provided no explanation for her failure to respond to the complaint in writing. She also acknowledged that she failed to appear at the hearing on the motion for summary judgment. When asked if she had returned all of Mr. Jones' file materials to him with instructions to secure independent counsel as a result of her malpractice, respondent indicated that she had failed to do so.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.3, 1.4, 1.7, 8.1(c), 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct), and 8.4(c).

         DISCIPLINARY ...


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