disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, Doris McWhite Weston, an attorney licensed to
practice law in Louisiana.
of background, in 2010, respondent commenced employment with
the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services
("DCFS"), where she remains employed as an Attorney
IV. She also maintains a small private practice.
September 2013, respondent began representing her father in a
personal injury matter. On September 19, 2013, respondent
wrote to third-party medical provider Broadmoor Chiropractic
Clinic ("the clinic") to assure the clinic that she
would pay her father's medical bill from any settlement
or proceeds received on her father's behalf. That same
day, the clinic sent a medical lien letter to respondent. The
clinic treated respondent's father from September 16,
2013 until January 2, 2014.
January 30, 2014, respondent settled her father's claim
for $12, 500. That same day, she negotiated a reduction of
the clinic's $4, 901 bill to $4, 000 if paid within
thirty days. On February 10, 2014, respondent deposited the
settlement check into her trust account. On February 11,
2014, respondent transferred $4, 000 from the trust account
to her operating account. On February 12, 2014, respondent
had a cashier's check in the amount of $8, 475.01 issued
on her trust account and made payable to her parents.
Respondent did not charge her father any attorney's fees
and waived $56.50 in medical records costs. Respondent
prepared a settlement statement, which reflected that the
clinic was owed $4, 000 and that this amount was $901 less
than the clinic's original charge.
clinic did not receive the $4, 000 within the thirty-day
period and notified respondent that it was now seeking full
payment. On several occasions in March and April 2014, the
clinic attempted to contact respondent about the outstanding
balance. On April 30, 2014, respondent called the clinic and
stated that the case had been closed and a check sent three
weeks previously. The clinic informed respondent that it had
not received a check. On May 27, 2014, respondent told the
clinic she would determine if the check had been cashed and,
if not, would reissue the check. The clinic made several
subsequent attempts to collect the balance.
August 6, 2014, respondent sent the clinic a cashier's
check in the amount of $4, 000. On August 12, 2014, the
clinic notified respondent that there was still a balance due
of $901 and that, if the balance was not paid, it would
"follow through with contacting the Louisiana Attorney
Disciplinary Board." Respondent informed the clinic that
she would pay the $901 on August 29, 2014. However, the
clinic still had not received the payment on September 11,
2014. That day and the next, the clinic contacted respondent
about the balance. On September 17, 2014, respondent gave the
clinic her debit card information in order to make the
payment, but the charge was declined by the credit card
company because it exceeded respondent's daily limit for
debit card transactions. On September 30, 2014, the clinic
filed a disciplinary complaint against respondent; the ODC
received this complaint in its office on October 3, 2014.
Also on October 3, 2014, the clinic successfully charged $700
to respondent's debit card. On November 11, 2014, the
clinic successfully charged the remaining $201 to
respondent's debit card.
October 2017, the ODC filed formal charges against
respondent, alleging that her conduct violated Rule 1.15
(safekeeping property of clients or third persons) of the
Rules of Professional Conduct. Respondent answered the formal
charges, essentially acknowledging the underlying facts set
forth above. She further explained:
In an effort to resolve the matter, I arranged for the
payment of $901. This amount was paid from my personal funds,
as I withheld only the $4000.00 agreed upon as Broadmoor
Clinic payment from Mr. McWhite's settlement proceeds.
After making the arrangement, a representative from Broadmoor
Chiropractic Clinic later advised that the attempt to charge
the debit card failed. This was due to my daily limit being
less than the $901 dollar charge. I instructed Broadmoor
Chiropractic Clinic to split the payment into two payments of
$700 and $201, to be ran on different dates. The first
payment posted without incident. The remaining balance of
$201 somehow remained outstanding, until I received a
complaint about an unpaid balance. I contacted Broadmoor
Clinic, was advised that the employee I entered the
arrangement with was no longer employed there. My card number
was on file and the representative made the charge to my
account at that time, clearing the outstanding $201 balance.
I apologized for any miscommunication. The account has been
paid in full.
matter proceeded to a formal hearing on the merits. The ODC
introduced the transcripts of the depositions of two
witnesses associated with the clinic, but did not call any
witnesses to testify before the hearing committee. ...