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In re Reid

Supreme Court of Louisiana

December 5, 2018

IN RE: MICHAEL SEAN REID

          ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Michael Sean Reid, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently on interim suspension for threat of harm to the public. In re: Reid, 16-1641 (La. 12/9/16), 207 So.3d 1039.

         FORMAL CHARGES

         Count I

         In June and July 2016, the ODC received notices from respondent's bank indicating his trust account was overdrawn on four occasions between May 31, 2016 and July 12, 2016. On July 2, 2016, in response to the first overdraft notice, respondent indicated he was battling depression and wanted to surrender his law license temporarily while dealing with those issues. Respondent also admitted to the ODC that he had "not maintained client funds in the manner prescribed by the rules of professional conduct."

         On July 13, 2016, the ODC mailed a letter to respondent seeking additional information; however, the letter was returned unclaimed. On August 9, 2016, an ODC staff investigator personally served respondent with a copy of its July 13, 2016 correspondence, along with copies of the three additional overdraft notices. At that time, respondent executed a HIPAA release, allowing the ODC to communicate directly with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP") about respondent. Respondent failed to respond to the ODC's requests for additional information, and he failed to provide an explanation for the three additional overdrafts.

         On August 24, 2016, the ODC received a letter from Buddy Stockwell, the Executive Director of JLAP, advising that respondent had contacted their office on July 11, 2016 and reported his drug and alcohol abuse, as well as his stress and anxiety. JLAP referred respondent to a detox facility and recommended a multi-day assessment. Mr. Stockwell stated that his office had not heard anything further from respondent since the July 11, 2016 telephone conversation.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated Rules 1.15(a) (safekeeping property of clients or third parties), 8.1(c) (failure to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation), 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct), and 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         Count II

         Respondent's former client, Dawn Meehan, received a refund check drawn on respondent's trust account. However, when Ms. Meehan attempted to negotiate the check, it was dishonored due to insufficient funds in the account. The ODC provided respondent with a copy of Ms. Meehan's disciplinary complaint, but he failed to respond to the complaint.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated Rules 1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client), 1.4 (failure to communicate with a client), 1.15(a), 8.1(c), and 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         Count III

         In September 2015, Daniel Pefferkorn hired respondent to represent him in a divorce and community property matter, paying respondent a $3, 500 retainer fee. During the representation, respondent changed his address multiple times. Because of the many address changes, Mr. Pefferkorn's vehicle title was lost in the mail, and he had to pay an additional $85 to order a duplicate title.

         Respondent's January 4, 2016 invoice indicated that Mr. Pefferkorn still had $2, 942.55 left of his retainer fee. However, respondent's trust account records for January 1, 2016 through May 31, 2016 revealed that the balance in the account dropped below the amount belonging to Mr. Pefferkorn on numerous occasions.

         At some point, respondent abandoned his law practice and failed to return Mr. Pefferkorn's telephone calls. Mr. Pefferkorn's last contact with respondent was on August 17, 2016. On August 31, 2016, Mr. Pefferkorn sent a letter to respondent, via certified mail, terminating respondent's services, requesting a copy of his file, and requesting a refund of the unearned fees. Respondent failed to respond to these requests, hindering Mr. Pefferkorn's ability to retain new counsel.

         On October 3, 2016, respondent received notice from the ODC of Mr. Pefferkorn's disciplinary complaint against him. Nevertheless, he failed to respond to the complaint.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated Rules 1.3, 1.4, 1.5(f)(5) (failure to refund an unearned fee), 1.15(a), 1.16(d) (obligations upon termination of the representation), 8.1(c), and 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         Count IV

         In May 2016, Blake and Tiffany Savoie hired respondent to handle their child support and child custody modification matter. Initially, the Savoies paid respondent a $125 consultation fee. However, in June 2016, they paid respondent a $1, 500 retainer fee and took respondent's advice to first file for child support.

         Thereafter, respondent failed to file the child support pleadings with the court and failed to return the Savoies' telephone calls. Respondent abandoned his law practice, and the Savoies have been unable to locate him.

         On October 3, 2016, respondent received notice from the ODC of the Savoies' disciplinary complaint against him. Nevertheless, he failed to respond to the complaint.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated Rules 1.3, 1.4, 1.5(f)(5), 1.15(a), 1.16(d), 8.1(c), and 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

         Count V

         In April 2016, Bridget Tilley hired respondent to handle a child support and custody matter. Ms. Tilley paid respondent a $3, 500 retainer fee on April 20, 2016 and another $3, 500 on May 16, 2016. Respondent made one court appearance on Ms. Tilley's behalf. Thereafter, respondent stopped returning Ms. Tilley's telephone calls and e-mails, and failed to appear for a Hearing Officer Conference ("HOC"). Respondent also failed to file orders requested by the court, and Ms. Tilley was forced to do all of her own work, including preparing the documents for the HOC. Eventually, respondent's telephone number was disconnected.

         On October 3, 2016, respondent received notice from the ODC of Ms. Tilley's disciplinary complaint against him. ...


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