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In re Labadie

Supreme Court of Louisiana

October 29, 2018

IN RE: JUAN C. LABADIE

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Juan C. Labadie, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently on interim suspension for threat of harm to the public. In re: Labadie, 16-0884 (La. 8/31/16), 199 So.3d 607.

         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 1996.

         In 2011, respondent consented to 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 conditions, for maintaining incomplete records of his client trust account, which resulted in a negligent commingling and conversion of funds. In re: Labadie, 11-1021 (La. 6/24/11), 65 So.3d 152.

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

         FORMAL CHARGES

         17-DB-002

         Count I

         Judge Michael Mentz presided over a child custody and support suit involving respondent and respondent's former spouse. During the proceeding, respondent was ordered to submit to a drug test, which he refused. Judge Mentz later recused himself from the matter because respondent qualified to run against him in the general election for the Division "F" bench in the 24th Judicial District Court.

         During the election, respondent made statements to the news media and it was reported "there was no basis for his ex-wife's request that he be drug-tested, and he accused Mentz of altering the court transcript as it related to the deadline by which he was supposed to take the drug test." According to a news story published on nola.com on September 26, 2014, respondent made accusations against Judge Mentz by "asserting that Mentz has doctored the public record, altering the transcript of an Aug. 7 court hearing." According to an article published in The New Orleans Advocate dated October 25, 2014, respondent stated that he was running for judge to "highlight that Mentz doesn't belong on the bench." Respondent said that "when faced with a situation where I have firsthand knowledge (of misconduct) and I know it happened, how can I turn my back on this and not do it?"

         In response to the accusation, Judge Mentz publicly stated that he has never altered a transcript and would have no reason to alter one. Judge Mentz also stated that he is not involved in transcribing court proceedings and has never reviewed a transcript before it was entered into the record.

         Respondent later made the same accusation of transcript tampering against Judge Mentz during a formal ODC proceeding. Respondent testified that a tape recording could establish his claims that a transcript of the hearing in front of Judge Mentz had been altered.

         In the domestic proceeding, respondent filed a motion to review the audio file, but the request was denied. Respondent sought supervisory review of this ruling. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal ordered Judge Donald A. Rowan to conduct an in camera inspection of the audio file of the August 7, 2014 hearing to ensure that the written transcript in the trial record accurately reflected the verbal orders of Judge Mentz. Judge Rowan's report and affidavit to the court confirmed the accuracy of the transcript when compared with the audio recording. Respondent did not produce any evidence to support the statements and allegations he made to nola.com and to the Advocate. The investigation by the Fifth Circuit concluded that respondent's accusations against Judge Mentz were without merit.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 8.2(a) (a lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge), 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 8.4(d) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

         Count II

         Tamara George was injured in a slip and fall accident at the Boomtown Casino gift shop. On March 4, 2004, she retained respondent to represent her in a claim for damages against Boomtown. Although Ms. George signed a contract with respondent, he never provided her with a copy of the contract. On March 1, 2005, Ms. George's claim against Boomtown prescribed.

         In September 2004, respondent advised Ms. George that he had filed suit on her behalf. Thereafter, Ms. George made several attempts to contact respondent regarding the status of her suit, to no avail. On February 19, 2007, she contacted the Second Parish Court and the 24th Judicial District Court (both courts of proper venue) in an effort to discover the status of her suit, but she was advised that neither venue had a record of her suit.

         Ms. George scheduled an appointment with respondent for February 27, 2007, at which time she was advised that the case had been "lost." Respondent did not admit to Ms. George that he never actually filed suit. Ms. George then filed a malpractice suit against respondent.

         The malpractice suit was settled pursuant to a consent judgment dated October 5, 2011. Under the terms of the agreement, respondent was to pay Ms. George a total of $22, 355 in damages; of that amount, $15, 548.74 was to be paid no later than sixty days from September 21, 2012, and $4, 231.26 was to be paid no later than 120 days thereafter. In addition, respondent was to pay $2, 575 to Ms. George's medical provider, also within 120 days of September 21, 2012. To date, however, no funds have been paid to Ms. George or to the medical provider.

         The sixth provision of the consent agreement barred Ms. George from filing a formal complaint with the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board and/or the Louisiana State Bar Association. This provision of the agreement was impermissible.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.3 (failure to act with diligence and promptness in representing a client), 1.4 (failure to communicate with a client), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).

         Count III

         Cammie Templet hired respondent to appeal a restitution order which had been entered against her in a criminal case. Ms. Templet paid respondent $3, 000 for the representation in October 2013. In December 2013, respondent filed a motion to stay enforcement of the restitution order in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. The motion was denied. Respondent filed an appeal in January 2014, at which time delay cutoffs were set by the court. On March 13, 2014, respondent was notified that his brief was overdue. He then filed a voluntary motion to dismiss the appeal, which was granted on March 31, 2014.

         Ms. Templet regularly attempted to contact respondent to discover the status of her appeal. On November 25, 2014, nearly eight months after respondent had dismissed the appeal, Ms. Templet sent respondent a text message requesting the status of the appeal. Respondent failed to reveal that he had already dismissed the appeal. On December 1, 2014, Ms. Templet again messaged respondent, but he did not respond. On December 4, 2014, she messaged respondent, who replied that he would answer the message later that day. He failed to do so. On December 9, 2014, Ms. Templet texted respondent. Again, respondent failed to advise that he had dismissed the appeal. Ms. Templet and respondent messaged back and forth on December 10, 11, and 17. On December 17, 2014 respondent stated to Ms. Templet that he did not think that the appeal would be a good idea "considering that your payments were lowered to what I believe would be lower than you would have even if successful in an appeal." Respondent failed to disclose that he had long since dismissed the appeal. Ms. Templet requested a refund, but respondent balked at the suggestion.

         Shortly thereafter, Ms. Templet contacted the court to seek the status of her appeal. The clerk informed her that the appeal was voluntarily dismissed in March 2014. Respondent stopped responding to Ms. Templet's attempts at contact. She has ...


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