IN RE: PATRICK A. GIRAUD
ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING
disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the
Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against
respondent, Patrick A. Giraud, an attorney licensed to
practice law in Louisiana.
February 3, 2016, the ODC received an overdraft notice
regarding a November 23, 2015 overdraft in respondent's
client trust account. The overdraft resulted from
respondent's attempt to pay a third-party medical
provider for services rendered to a client who had no funds
in the trust account.
the ODC's forensic auditor conducted an audit of
respondent's trust account for the period of August 1,
2015 through January 31, 2016. The audit revealed that
respondent regularly paid non-client expenses and made cash
withdrawals from his trust account; these non-client expenses
and cash withdrawals totaled $33, 219.33 during the audit
period. The audit also revealed that, on January 31, 2016,
the trust account balance to satisfy pending client
expenditures should have been at least $16, 345.62. Instead,
the balance on that date was $3, 235.61, resulting in a
deficit of $13, 110.01.
March 17, 2016, respondent informed the ODC that he was
addicted to OxyContin, explaining that "the cost of the
medication coupled with its effects on me overwhelmed my
finances and I eventually began to take money from my Trust
account." He also informed the ODC that he had contacted
the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP")
and was preparing to enter inpatient treatment. He further
informed the ODC that "I have also gone through my files
and paid all outstanding debts that had been previously
withheld from client settlements." This last statement
was confirmed by the ODC's audit of respondent's
trust account. Finally, during his October 26, 2016 sworn
statement to the ODC, respondent admitted that he regularly
used his trust account as a second operating account in 2015.
7, 2016, respondent completed a ninety-day inpatient
treatment program at Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center.
Palmetto's medical director diagnosed respondent with
severe opioid use disorder, among other diagnoses. On July
12, 2016, respondent signed a five-year JLAP recovery
September 2017, the ODC filed formal charges against
respondent, alleging that his conduct violated the following
provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules
1.15(a) (safekeeping property of clients or third persons),
1.15(f) (on client trust accounts, cash withdrawals and
checks made payable to "Cash" are prohibited), and
8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud,
deceit, or misrepresentation). In his answer, respondent
admitted to violating Rules 1.15(a) and 1.15(f) but denied
violating Rule 8.4(c). The matter then proceeded to a formal
hearing on the merits.
considering the evidence and testimony presented at the
hearing, the hearing committee found that respondent used
OxyContin daily from 2013 through early 2016. Respondent
admitted that he did not have a prescription for the drug but
would purchase it from others, including another attorney. He
also admitted that he used his client trust account as an
operating account. After being discharged from Palmetto,
respondent voluntarily agreed to be randomly drug tested and
has had 24 such drug tests. He also regularly attends
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and testified that he has not
used drugs or alcohol since leaving Palmetto. Finally,
respondent admitted that he violated Rules 1.15(a) and
1.15(f) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
the testimony of Buddy Stockwell, JLAP's executive
director, the committee found that he described respondent as
"so open" and someone who "badly wanted
help." Mr. Stockwell also indicated that all of the
random drug tests respondent has taken have been negative.
Finally, Mr. Stockwell testified that he does not have any
concerns about respondent relapsing.
the testimony of Angelina Marcellino, the ODC's forensic
auditor, the committee found that she concluded respondent
had misused and converted funds in his trust account, the
total being approximately $13, 000 but could have been as
high as $33, 000. Ms. Marcellino also reviewed records
indicating respondent had recently made restitution to
clients and former clients.
committee found credible the testimony of respondent and the
other witnesses. The committee also found that the evidence
shows respondent improperly took funds from his trust account
to support a drug habit. Following treatment, respondent has
shown no signs of continued violation of the Rules of
Professional Conduct. Based on these facts, the committee
determined respondent violated the Rules of Professional
Conduct as alleged in the formal charges.
mitigating factors, the committee noted that the ODC had
stipulated to the following: absence of a prior disciplinary
record, timely good faith effort to make restitution or to
rectify the consequences of the misconduct, and full and free
disclosure to the disciplinary board and a cooperative
attitude toward the proceedings.
light of the above findings, the committee recommended
respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one year
and one day, fully deferred, subject to the following
1. Respondent shall continue to be bound by the terms of his
JLAP recovery agreement for at least two years;
2. Respondent shall obtain regular audits of his trust
account, to be performed by a CPA approved by the ODC;
3. Respondent shall submit the findings of the audits on a
quarterly basis to the ...