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In re Megwa

Supreme Court of Louisiana

October 15, 2019

IN RE: SABINUS A. MEGWA

          ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM.

         Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 21, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") has filed a petition seeking the imposition of reciprocal discipline against respondent, Sabinus A. Megwa, [1] an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana and Arizona, based upon discipline imposed by the Supreme Court of Arizona.

         UNDERLYING FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A client hired respondent to represent her in a personal injury claim following her involvement in an automobile accident on November 21, 2012. Between August 2013 and November 2014, the client requested several updates from and appointments with respondent, to no avail. On November 20, 2014 respondent filed a lawsuit on the client's behalf but did not inform her of the filing until February 10, 2015. Respondent also failed to provide the defendant with a disclosure statement or responses to discovery requests, which were due on August 7, 2015.

         Thereafter, the client's lawsuit proceeded to arbitration, but respondent did not prepare his client for the arbitration hearing until they were on the way to same. On April 21, 2016, the arbitrator awarded the client $5, 800. Respondent failed to submit his verified statement of costs, and as a result, each party was ordered to bear their own costs. Respondent again neglected the matter by filing an untimely appeal.

         The defendant sent respondent a check for $5, 800. Respondent's office apparently sent the client a letter regarding the check. However, when she went to respondent's office on September 1, 2016, she was not told of the check or given any information about it. On March 5, 2018, the client went to respondent's office again and still was not given the check. The client's medical liens totaled more than $13, 000, and respondent agreed to waive his fees and costs.

         In State Bar of Arizona File 12-2516, respondent received an admonition for unrelated conduct and was put on probation under the Law Office Management Assistance Program and the Trust Account Ethics Enhancement Program. This probationary period coincided with respondent's misconduct as set forth above.

         In October 2014, another client retained respondent regarding the death of her husband following a confrontation with Phoenix police. The client did not sign a contingency fee agreement.

         Respondent filed a lawsuit on the client's behalf on October 5, 2015 but failed to timely conduct discovery. On March 23, 2017, ten days before the discovery deadline, respondent requested an extension of time to depose the police officers, which was denied. The defense moved for summary judgment on April 21, 2017. Respondent failed to inform the client of the motion, and the defense prevailed on most of the issues raised. The attorney for the defense tried to communicate with respondent, but he never responded. The court found respondent "failed to pursue reasonable discovery and failed to represent Plaintiffs adequately."

         In May 2019, respondent and the State Bar of Arizona filed an agreement for discipline by consent with the Supreme Court of Arizona. On May 30, 2019, the presiding disciplinary judge of the Supreme Court of Arizona accepted the parties' proposed agreement and ordered that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six months and one day, effective thirty days from the date of the order, with the suspension retroactive to April 9, 2019. The presiding disciplinary judge further ordered that, upon reinstatement to the practice of law, respondent shall be placed on probation for eighteen months.

         After receiving notice of the Arizona order of discipline, the ODC filed a petition to initiate reciprocal discipline proceedings in Louisiana, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 21. A copy of the Final Judgment and Order issued by the Supreme Court of Arizona was attached to the petition. On August 2, 2019, this court rendered an order giving respondent thirty days to demonstrate why the imposition of identical discipline in this state would be unwarranted. Respondent failed to file any response in this court.

         DISCUSSION

         The standard for imposition of discipline on a reciprocal basis is set forth in Supreme Court Rule XIX, ...


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