disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, Timmy James Fontenot, a disbarred attorney.
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 1995.
2011, we considered a joint petition for consent discipline
filed by respondent and the ODC wherein respondent
acknowledged that he neglected a legal matter, failed to
communicate with a client, charged an excessive fee, and made
misrepresentations. We accepted the petition for consent
discipline and suspended respondent from the practice of law
for one year, fully deferred, subject to two years of
supervised probation. In re: Fontenot, 11-0989 (La.
6/17/11), 63 So.3d 130 ("Fontenot I").
October 2015, the ODC filed formal charges against
respondent, alleging that he settled a personal injury case
for $52, 500 without his clients' consent, forged his
clients' signatures on the settlement documents, misled
his clients as to the status of the case, failed to disburse
the settlement proceeds to his clients for five years, failed
to reduce the contingency fee agreement to writing, and made
cash withdrawals from his client trust account. In November
2017, we disbarred respondent for this misconduct. In re:
Fontenot, 17-1661 (La. 11/28/17), 230 So.3d 185
("Fontenot II"). Respondent will not be
eligible to apply for readmission to the practice of law
this backdrop, we now turn to a consideration of the
misconduct at issue in the instant proceeding.
January 7, 2013, respondent and attorney Marcus
Fontenot entered into a contract to provide legal
services to Evangeline Construction & Trucking, LLC
("the client") with respect to the BP oil spill. On
January 9, 2013, respondent and Mr. Fontenot referred the
matter to the Fayard & Honeycutt law firm ("the
firm") with the client's permission and knowledge.
The firm designated respondent as the lead attorney to
communicate and assist with the client's contact data and
information. With the help of respondent and Mr. Fontenot,
the firm pursued a claim in the Deepwater Horizon Court
Supervised Settlement Program on behalf of the client.
April 2016, the firm received a settlement offer, which had
been negotiated through the court-appointed neutrals'
opt-out and exclusions confidential settlement program.
Respondent presented the settlement offer to the client, and
the client accepted the offer, signing the formal release on
April 19, 2016. BP ratified the settlement offer on May 14,
settlement funds were subsequently wired to the firm's
trust account. The firm then prepared the final disbursement
sheet, release, and dismissal of the client's action. On
June 1, 2016, the funds were disbursed according to the final
disbursement sheet. The client's portion of the
settlement check was made payable directly to Evangeline
Construction & Trucking, LLC. The client's settlement
check, the disbursement sheet, and the check for
attorney's fees were then forwarded to respondent. The
firm's trust account records indicate that the checks
cleared the account in June 2016.
27, 2016, Mr. Fontenot called the firm to inquire about the
status of the funding of the client's settlement. The
firm informed Mr. Fontenot that it had sent $275, 214.02 in
client settlement funds along with all appropriate
disbursement and settlement documents to respondent on June
1, 2016. Thereafter, the firm called the client and learned
that respondent had issued the client a check for $200,
214.02 instead of $275, 214.02. The firm then learned
respondent had forged the client's name on the back of
the firm's trust account check made payable to the client
and deposited the check into his trust account. The firm also
learned that, when respondent issued the $200, 214.02 check
to the client, respondent had the client sign a handwritten
receipt acknowledging it had received the settlement check.
28, 2016, attorney Blayne Honeycutt, a partner at the firm,
instructed respondent to disburse the entire $275, 214.02
immediately to the client, and respondent agreed to do so. On
July 29, 2016, respondent advised Mr. Honeycutt that he had
disbursed all funds in accordance with the disbursement
sheet. Respondent also sent the firm and Mr. Fontenot a copy
of his trust account check number 1771 in the amount of $275,
214.02, which contained a copy of the client's signed
acknowledgement that it had received these funds.
the firm later learned that respondent had copied the
client's handwritten acknowledgment of receipt of funds
from the $200, 214.02 check and transferred it to the copy of
his trust account check number 1771 in the amount of $275,
214.02. Respondent's trust account check number 1771 in
the amount of $275, 214.02 never cleared the bank because it
was only written by respondent to convince the firm and Mr.
Fontenot that he had paid the client the entire settlement
amount when he had, in fact, not done so.
confronted with these findings, respondent indicated that he
had not paid the client the entire amount because he simply
did not have all the money in his trust account. Upon
learning of respondent's actions, the firm and/or Mr.
Fontenot contacted the client and asked it not to deposit the
$200, 214.02 check. Then, on August 1, 2016, Mr. Honeycutt
and Mr. Fontenot deposited $75, 000 into respondent's