IN RE: CRISTINE Y. VOELKEL
ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING
disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, Christine Y. Voelkel, an attorney licensed to
practice law in Louisiana, but currently on interim
suspension for threat of harm to the public. In re:
Voelkel, 19-0344 (La. 3/8/19), ___ So.3d
filed two sets of formal charges against respondent under
disciplinary board docket numbers 15-DB-031 and 16-DB-099.
Respondent failed to answer the formal charges in 15-DB-031
but did file an answer in 16-DB-099. The matters were then
considered by separate hearing committees.
respondent's failure to answer the charges in 15-DB-031,
the factual allegations contained therein were deemed
admitted and proven by clear and convincing evidence pursuant
to Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 11(E)(3). No formal hearing
was held, but the parties were given an opportunity to file
with the hearing committee written arguments and documentary
evidence on the issue of sanctions. Respondent filed nothing
for the hearing committee's consideration. With respect
to the charges in 16-DB-099, although respondent filed an
answer, she failed to appear for the formal hearing.
2018, the two sets of formal charges were consolidated by
order of the disciplinary board. The board then filed in this
court a single recommendation of discipline encompassing both
sets of formal charges.
March 10, 2014, respondent incurred an overdraft in her
client trust account in the amount of $1, 325. By letter
dated March 21, 2014, the ODC requested that respondent
provide an explanation for the overdraft, along with six
months of bank statements for the period prior to the
overdraft and supporting documentation for the activity
therein. Respondent received the correspondence on March 28,
2014. Nevertheless, she failed to respond. By letter dated
August 14, 2014, the ODC made a second request for the
August 18, 2014, the ODC received a response from respondent,
in which she indicated that she was delayed in responding and
unable to get the requested materials because of financial
and emotional difficulties. Specifically, respondent
indicated that she recently moved from her home and her
office due to her separation from her spouse. Respondent also
indicated that she had recently suffered a miscarriage.
Regarding the overdraft, respondent explained that it was
caused by the bank placing a hold on a deposit. She further
stated that the account had a sufficient balance at the time
the check was presented.
attempted to serve respondent with a subpoena to appear for a
sworn statement and to produce the requested documents.
However, the ODC's investigator was not able to locate
her. Thereafter, respondent called the ODC, indicating she
would waive service because she was homeless and would appear
for the sworn statement on October 29, 2014. Thereafter,
respondent failed to communicate or cooperate with the ODC.
alleged that respondent's conduct violated the following
provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.15
(safekeeping property of clients or third persons) and 8.1(c)
(failure to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation).
considering the ODC's deemed admitted submission in
15-DB-031, the hearing committee made factual findings
consistent with the factual allegations in the formal charges
that were deemed admitted and proven by clear and convincing
evidence. Based on these findings, the committee determined
that respondent violated Rules 1.15 and 8.1(c) of the Rules
of Professional Conduct as alleged in the formal charges. The
committee also determined that respondent violated Rules
8.1(b) (knowing failure to respond to a lawful demand for
information from a disciplinary authority) and 8.4(a)
(violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct) even though
the ODC did not charge her with same.
committee determined that the overdraft of respondent's
trust account was the result of an oversight and negligence
and that there was no evidence of actual harm. The committee
also determined that respondent knowingly and intentionally
violated her duty to cooperate with the ODC's
committee then noted that respondent indicated she was
abandoned by her spouse, evicted from her home, homeless, and
suffered a miscarriage. However, the committee found no
evidence that these factors related to or caused the trust
account overdraft or respondent's failure to cooperate.
Nevertheless, the committee found respondent's separation
from her spouse, homelessness, miscarriage, and the related
emotional consequences to be mitigating factors. However,
these mitigating factors may be interpreted as very good
reasons why respondent is unfit to continue to practice law
without some type of intervention, mentoring, or monitoring.
In aggravation, the committee referenced respondent's bad
faith obstruction of the disciplinary proceeding by
intentionally failing to comply with the rules or orders of
the disciplinary agency.
also considering this court's prior jurisprudence
addressing similar misconduct, the committee recommended
respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one
year, fully deferred, subject to a two-year period of
probation with the following conditions:
1. Respondent shall submit to the ODC quarterly audits of her
trust account performed by ...