IN RE: TYRONE F. WATKINS
ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING
disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, Tyrone F. Watkins, an attorney licensed to
practice law in Louisiana.
August 7, 2015, Shawn Sanne hired respondent to represent him
in expungement proceedings of his three felony and one
misdemeanor convictions. Mr. Sanne paid respondent $4, 300
for attorney's fees and court costs associated with all
August 14, 2015, respondent filed a motion for expungement in
one of the felony cases. On September 30, 2015, he filed a
motion for expungement in the misdemeanor case. The State
filed objections to both motions and sought contradictory
hearings. Respondent moved to continue both proceedings.
However, one of the cases was rescheduled for hearing on
December 14, 2015, and the court again continued the
proceeding because no one appeared on Mr. Sanne's behalf.
respondent took no further action to advance the two pending
expungement proceedings. He also failed to take any action
regarding the two other expungements he was hired to handle.
Furthermore, respondent did not respond to numerous telephone
calls and e-mails from Mr. Sanne and his office assistant,
Penny O'Neal, including a final e-mail dated May 23,
2016, which reported that Mr. Sanne was "thoroughly fed
up with the lack of communication and information."
Then, on August 17, 2016, Mr. Sanne sent a letter to
respondent via certified mail, which respondent failed to
August 2017, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent,
alleging that his 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), 1.5
(fee arrangements), 1.16 (declining or terminating
representation), and 3.2 (failure to make reasonable efforts
to expedite litigation). In his answer, respondent stated:
I have received the formal charges that were filed against me
in the above referenced matter and I admit that I dropped the
ball on this one. However, while the majority of the charges
are accurate I believe that [there] is a material issue of
fact regarding the violation of Rules of Professional Conduct
rule 1.4 (lack of communication) that I need to explain.
Please allow me an opportunity to be heard in person in a
the mitigation hearing, the hearing committee noted that Mr.
Sanne testified regarding his great difficulty, over an
extended period of time, in getting a status update from
respondent. Ms. O'Neal corroborated Mr. Sanne's
testimony and additionally testified that, after respondent
received the full payment on August 7, 2015, he did not
initiate any contact with either her or Mr. Sanne. Ms.
O'Neal further stated that they first learned respondent
had filed the motions for expungement when they received
subpoenas from the court. They then called respondent, who
advised them of the State's objections, of the
continuance of the hearings, and of his intention to pursue
the expungements at a later date.
respect to respondent's testimony, the committee noted
that he stipulated to violating Rules 1.4, 1.5, 1.16, and 3.2
of the Rules of Professional Conduct but not Rule 1.3.
Respondent also testified that he considered mediation to
determine the portion of the fee he needed to return to Mr.
Sanne but abandoned the effort because he did not have the
funds available to provide a refund. Nevertheless, he
committed to refunding the portion of the fee the committee
deemed unearned. Respondent then indicated that he took
preliminary steps to complete the expungements, paying $25
for a background check on Mr. Sanne and paying $550 in court
costs. However, he admitted he "dropped the ball"
after the expungements proved more complex than he
anticipated. Respondent then testified that, although he had
handled approximately a dozen expungements previously, they
were all routine and unopposed. When the State objected to
the two expungements he filed, respondent became aware of a
change in law that posed additional obstacles to the relief
sought. Respondent ...