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In re Harris

Supreme Court of Louisiana

June 15, 2018

IN RE: ARTHUR L. HARRIS, SR.

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         The instant disciplinary proceeding arises from a motion and rule to revoke probation filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Arthur L. Harris, Sr., for his violation of additional Rules of Professional Conduct while on court-ordered probation imposed in In re: Harris, 13-2368 (La. 12/6/13), 129 So.3d 526 ("Harris I"), as well as for his failure to comply with the conditions of probation imposed in that matter.

         UNDERLYING FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The record in Harris I demonstrated that respondent neglected two legal matters, failed to communicate with his clients, failed to promptly refund unearned fees, and failed to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation. Following the filing of formal charges, respondent and the ODC submitted a joint petition for consent discipline, proposing that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one year and one day, fully deferred, subject to a two-year period of supervised probation with specified conditions. On December 6, 2013, this court accepted the petition for consent discipline in Harris I. The court's order stated in pertinent part as follows:

IT IS ORDERED that the Petition for Consent Discipline be accepted and that Arthur L. Harris, Sr., Louisiana Bar Roll number 6608, be suspended from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day. It is further ordered that this suspension shall be deferred in its entirety, subject to respondent's successful completion of a two-year period of supervised probation governed by the terms and conditions set forth in the Petition for Consent Discipline. The probationary period shall commence from the date respondent, the probation monitor, and the ODC execute a formal probation plan. Any failure of respondent to comply with the conditions of probation, or any misconduct during the probationary period, may be grounds for making the deferred suspension executory, or imposing additional discipline, as appropriate. [Emphasis added.]

         On October 20, 2016, respondent executed a formal probation agreement with the ODC.[1] Among other conditions, respondent agreed to the following:

At the intervals set out in this plan and at any other time requested by the Probation Monitor, Respondent shall provide the Probation Monitor and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel with written reports of Respondent's activities which fall within the ambit of his probation. Any failure to furnish such written reports shall constitute a basis for revocation of probation.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         Motion and Rule to Revoke Probation

         On April 18, 2018, the ODC filed the instant motion and rule to revoke respondent's probation, alleging that he had failed to comply with the conditions of his probation in Harris I. Essentially, the ODC alleged that respondent failed to provide his probation monitor, Harold M. Wheelahan, III, with written reports of his activities, as required by his probation plan.[2]

         In addition, during respondent's probationary period, three disciplinary complaints were filed against him. One client complained that respondent had failed to refund an unearned fee. Two other complaints involved allegations that respondent had not returned client files. Respondent also failed to reply to the complaints; failed to appear for a sworn statement, despite being served with a subpoena; and failed to update his registration addresses.

         Accordingly, the ODC prayed for revocation of respondent's probation and the imposition of the previously deferred one year and one day suspension.

         Respondent was served with the motion and rule to revoke probation but did not file an answer thereto. However, the day before the hearing in the matter, respondent's counsel filed a motion for continuance. The disciplinary board denied the motion.

         Hearing on Revocation of Probation

         This matter proceeded to a hearing before an adjudicative panel of the disciplinary board on May 14, 2018. Respondent did not appear at the hearing, despite being subpoenaed to appear; however, his counsel, Ernest Jones, appeared. Mr. Jones stated that although he was enrolled as respondent's counsel, he was not prepared to participate in the hearing and that he would simply observe. He further informed the board panel that respondent was "not here at my direction." Mr. Jones indicated that respondent was not able to appear due to some "physical" and "mental" reasons, but Mr. Jones said he was not prepared to present any evidence on those issues.

         Following the presentation of the ODC's evidence, the board panel allowed Mr. Jones until 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 to file a post-hearing memorandum. On May 16, 2018, Mr. Jones, on behalf of respondent, filed the following "Posthearing Statement":

Although complete medical records of Respondent were requested in early May, it is administratively impossible to obtain same in time to meet the 5pm deadline imposed by the Board. Respondent is unable to present his ...

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