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In re Walsh

Supreme Court of Louisiana

December 3, 2018

IN RE: GEORGE ALLEN R. WALSH

          ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         In this matter, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") seeks to appeal a ruling of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board ordering that respondent, George Allen R. Walsh, be publicly reprimanded.

         UNDERLYING FACTS

         The records of the Louisiana State Bar Association ("LSBA") reflect that between May 31, 2014 and August 5, 2016, respondent was ineligible to practice law for failing to comply with the mandatory continuing legal education requirements. Likewise, the LSBA's records reflect that from September 9, 2014 to February 4, 2015, and again from September 9, 2015 to July 5, 2016, respondent was declared ineligible to practice law for failure to pay his bar dues and the disciplinary assessment. Respondent was ineligible from September 9, 2015 to June 9, 2016 for failure to file a trust account registration statement.

         On June 13, 2016, the ODC received a complaint from Judge Adam J. Haney of the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court. In the complaint, Judge Haney informed the ODC that on June 8, 2016, respondent had appeared before him as counsel of record in a juvenile detention hearing. The judge's staff later searched the LSBA's attorney roster database in an effort to update respondent's contact information. At that time, the staff discovered that respondent was ineligible to practice law. The LSBA subsequently confirmed directly to Judge Haney that respondent was ineligible to practice for failure to comply with his professional obligations.

         Judge Haney instructed his law clerk to contact respondent to inform him that he was listed as ineligible to practice law by the LSBA. Respondent told the law clerk that he would investigate the matter and report back to the court, but when Judge Haney had not heard from respondent, he filed a complaint with the ODC.

         On two occasions, the ODC forwarded a copy of the complaint to respondent and requested a response. Respondent failed to file a written response to the complaint, necessitating the issuance of a subpoena to obtain his sworn statement. Respondent appeared for the statement but refused to answer any questions, stating that he would be hiring an attorney to represent him and that he would not participate in the sworn statement at that time. Two weeks later, respondent reappeared at the ODC's offices, accompanied by his attorney, and gave a sworn statement, during which he admitted that he had engaged in the active and continuous practice of law from September 9, 2015 to June 8, 2016, a significant portion of the time that he was ineligible to practice.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In March 2017, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent, alleging that his conduct as set forth above violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.1(c) (a lawyer is required to comply with all of the requirements of the Supreme Court's rules regarding annual registration, including payment of Bar dues, payment of the disciplinary assessment, timely notification of changes of address, and proper disclosure of trust account information or any changes therein) and 5.5(a) (engaging in the unauthorized practice of law). Respondent, through counsel, answered the formal charges and stated that his failure to timely comply with his professional obligations was unintentional and did not cause harm.

         Formal Hearing

         Following remand, this matter proceeded to a formal hearing. The ODC introduced documentary evidence, including a letter from Loretta Larsen, the Executive Director of the Louisiana State Bar Association, certifying that respondent was deemed ineligible for failing to comply with his MCLE requirements for the period of May 31, 2014 through August 5, 2016. The ODC also called Judge Haney and Michelle LaRose, the LSBA's Director of Finance and Membership, to testify in person before the hearing committee.

         Respondent testified on his own behalf and on cross-examination by the ODC. Respondent also introduced a transcript from the Louisiana Supreme Court website indicating that he completed his MCLE requirements in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

         Hearing Committee Report

         After considering the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing, the hearing committee made the following factual findings:

         Based upon documentary evidence submitted by respondent and the testimony of respondent, the committee found that respondent completed his MCLE requirements for the period of 2014 through 2016. Respondent presented a transcript from the Louisiana Supreme Court website properly identifying him and indicating that all MCLE requirements were completed for the years in question. This information was supported by respondent's testimony. The ODC did not provide evidence to the contrary, and Ms. LaRose was unable to testify about MCLE requirements or the adequacy of the reporting of such information to her office.

         Based upon the testimony of Ms. LaRose, the testimony of respondent, and documentary evidence, the committee found that respondent failed to pay his bar dues and the disciplinary assessment for the period of September 9, 2015 to July 5, 2016. Ms. LaRose testified that her office was responsible for collecting and reporting bar dues and disciplinary assessments, and her records revealed that respondent had not paid his dues ...


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