ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING
disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, Raymond Charles Burkart III, an attorney licensed
to practice law in Louisiana, but currently ineligible to
filed two sets of formal charges against respondent under
disciplinary board docket numbers 16-DB-006 and 17-DB-007.
Respondent failed to answer either set of formal charges.
Accordingly, the factual allegations contained therein were
deemed admitted and proven by clear and convincing evidence
pursuant to Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 11(E)(3).
matters were then considered by separate hearing committees.
No formal hearings were held, but the parties were given an
opportunity to file with the hearing committees written
arguments and documentary evidence on the issue of sanctions.
Respondent filed nothing for the hearing committee's
consideration in either matter.
their consideration by the hearing committees, the matters
were consolidated by order of the disciplinary board. The
board then filed in this court a single recommendation of
discipline encompassing both sets of formal charges.
February 5, 2014, the ODC received notice from Chase Bank
that a $431.83 check drawn on respondent's client trust
account was returned unpaid for insufficient funds. The ODC
then sent respondent a letter requesting an explanation for
the returned check as well as copies of six months of bank
records for the account; however, respondent did not comply
with the request. As a result, a formal complaint was opened.
of the formal complaint was mailed to respondent in June
2014, again requesting the previously sought information. The
correspondence was returned unclaimed. One month later, the
ODC resent the notification to respondent. Respondent signed
for the notice on August 2, 2014, but he did not respond to
September 2014, the ODC requested that a subpoena and a
subpoena duces tecum be served upon respondent for his sworn
statement and for the production of his financial
information. Respondent was served on September 16, 2014. The
ODC finally received the requested information from
respondent on September 24, 2014, although the response was
dated March 14, 2014. As a result, the sworn statement was
response, respondent apologized and expressed regret for
writing an NSF check, which he stated was unintentional. (The
check represented a refund to a client of unearned fees and
unused costs.) Respondent indicated that he notified the
client of the violation and wired the amount to his client on
February 10, 2014.
also hired a CPA to audit his trust account. According to the
CPA report, dated March 12, 2014, respondent's trust
account had a negative balance of $3, 721.71. By way of
explanation for the shortfall, respondent stated that he had
assumed responsibility for handling the client trust account
after his law partner, who had previously handled
administrative duties, removed her name from the
account. Respondent admitted that he never realized
the responsibility entailed in handling the administrative
aspects of the firm. Respondent stated that in 2013, his
professional duties to the local police union lodge became
overwhelming and he lost his law partner, for all practical
purposes. Respondent stated that he planned to repay the
shortfall in his trust account, although he has yet to
confirm that he has complied with these plans.
October 2014, the ODC's auditor asked respondent to
identify numerous online transfers, cash withdrawals, and
credit card payments from his trust account. Respondent
failed to respond, and he was served with a subpoena duces
tecum as well as a subpoena to appear for a sworn statement.
On January 13, 2015, respondent appeared at the ODC for his
sworn statement and produced additional copies of deposit and
withdrawal slips, but the submitted information was not
responsive to the ODC's request.
alleged respondent's conduct violated the following
provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules
1.15(a) (safekeeping property of clients or third persons),
8.1(b) (knowing failure to respond to a lawful demand for
information from a disciplinary authority), and 8.4(a)
(violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct).
November 2010, Davina Witte hired respondent's firm to
represent her in a divorce, paying the firm a $2, 000
retainer. The last service provided was in July 2012. Between
September 2014 and March 2015, Ms. Witte repeatedly asked
respondent to return the unearned portion of the fee she had
paid. After Ms. Witte threatened to file a disciplinary
complaint, the firm's office assistant called Ms. Witte
and informed her that she would be receiving a check.
Thereafter, Ms. Witte continued to leave messages regarding
the refund. In December 2014, respondent finally answered Ms.
Witte's phone call, at which time he informed her that he
would "look into the situation." Ms. Witte never
heard anything further from respondent, even after she left
several more messages.
March 2015, Ms. Witte filed a complaint against respondent
and his law partner with the ODC. In response to the
complaint, respondent's law partner advised that Ms.
Witte began calling her in October 2014 to inquire about the
refund. Because she was unaware of any balance due to Ms.
Witte, she instructed her assistant to forward the inquiry to
respondent. She also e-mailed respondent to ...