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In re DeJean

Supreme Court of Louisiana

January 30, 2019

In re FELIX DeJEAN, IV

          ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM [*]

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Felix Anthony DeJean, IV, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana.

         PRIOR DISCIPLINARY HISTORY

         Before we address the current charges, we find it helpful to review respondent's prior disciplinary history. After being admitted to the practice of law in Louisiana in 1997, respondent's first encounter with the disciplinary system occurred in 2006, when he consented to a two-year period of probation imposed by the disciplinary board for "physical altercations and behaviors" caused by his bipolar disorder, [1] Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and prior use of marijuana and alcohol. In re: DeJean, 06-DB-057 (11/10/06). As a condition of probation, respondent and the ODC agreed that he would execute a two-year contract with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP"). Respondent successfully complied with his obligations under the JLAP contract, and in November 2008, the ODC notified respondent that his probation had been successfully concluded.

         In December 2009, respondent was twice admonished by the disciplinary board for failing to properly address fee disputes with clients. In re: DeJean, 09-ADB-018 (12/1/09) (client Leother Dupas), and In re: DeJean, 09-ADB-019 (12/1/09) (client Jerriel Bazile).

         In April 2010, this court accepted a joint petition for consent discipline and publicly reprimanded respondent in In re: DeJean, 10-0712 (La. 4/30/10), 35 So.3d 253. The misconduct at issue in that matter involved allegations that respondent relied upon the false representations of his client and failed to verify the identity of the parties who appeared before him for the purpose of executing a notarial renunciation.

         In 2013, the disciplinary board publicly reprimanded respondent for engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice when he acted in an abusive and threatening manner towards the opposing party during a settlement conference. Respondent sought review of the board's ruling in this court. We affirmed the board's ruling as correct. In re: DeJean, 13-2311 (La. 1/10/14), 131 So.3d 36.

         Against this backdrop, we now turn to a consideration of the misconduct at issue in the present proceeding.

         UNDERLYING FACTS

         On March 19, 2015, respondent was present in the chambers of Judge Kathy Johnson of the Seventh Judicial District Court for the Parish of Concordia for a conference in a criminal case. Also present in chambers were the District Attorney, Bradley Burget, and First Assistant District Attorney Ann Siddall.

         At the conclusion of the conference, as the parties were leaving the judge's chambers, a physical altercation occurred. Mr. Burget claims that respondent exchanged words with him, physically confronted him and "chest bumped" him. Respondent claims that Mr. Burget instigated the altercation and that he acted in self-defense.

         Respondent was subsequently charged with simple battery in connection with the altercation.[2] On July 14, 2016, a trial was held before Retired Justice Chet Traylor, sitting as judge ad hoc. The state called the following witnesses to testify: Judge Johnson, Ms. Siddall, the judge's assistant, Julie Colclasure, court reporter Leona Paul, and Mr. Burget. Respondent testified in his own defense and on cross-examination by the state. At the conclusion of testimony and the closing argument of counsel, Justice Traylor found respondent guilty as charged of simple battery upon Mr. Burget. In oral reasons for judgment, Justice Traylor stated that he found the State had carried its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt; to find otherwise "would be to ignore the testimony of all the witnesses."

         After taking sentencing under advisement, Justice Traylor sentenced respondent to serve six months in the parish prison, suspended, and placed him on eighteen months active supervised probation with special conditions. Among other conditions of probation, respondent was required to submit to a psychological evaluation by Dr. John W. Thompson, Jr., M.D.[3] at his own cost and enroll in and successfully complete an anger management program.

         Respondent sought appellate review of his conviction. The court of appeal denied his application, as did this court.[4]

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In August 2016, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent, alleging that his conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer) and 8.4(d) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

         Respondent answered the formal charges and admitted that he was convicted of simple battery. However, he denied that he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. Respondent maintained that he was not the aggressor in the incident with Mr. Burget and reiterated ...


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