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In re Hunt

Supreme Court of Louisiana

November 12, 2019

IN RE: QUIANA MARIE HUNT

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

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

         FORMAL CHARGES

         On February 13, 2017, the ODC received notice that respondent's client trust account held insufficient funds on February 2, 2017 to honor a check in the amount of $1, 500. On February 15, 2017, the ODC sent notice of the overdraft to respondent with a request for an explanation. Respondent failed to claim the ODC's notice sent via certified mail. The ODC sent a second notice to respondent via certified mail on March 7, 2017. In response, respondent faxed some of her banking records to the ODC. However, this response only partially satisfied the ODC's request for documents. On April 18, 2017, the ODC gave respondent two weeks to gather the remaining documents.

         Having received no response, on July 14, 2017, the ODC wrote to respondent in an attempt to schedule her sworn statement. Again, the ODC received no response. Thereafter, the ODC issued a subpoena directing respondent to produce the documents by September 26, 2017 and to appear for a sworn statement on October 10, 2017. Respondent was personally served with the subpoena on August 28, 2017. Nevertheless, she failed to produce the documents or appear for the sworn statement.

         The ODC rescheduled respondent's sworn statement for October 13, 2017 and asked respondent to bring the requested documents at that time. Respondent appeared for the sworn statement but did not fully comply with the document request.

         During the sworn statement, respondent indicated the overdraft occurred because the check presented for payment was issued several months previously, and she had withdrawn funds to pay an expert witness, leaving insufficient funds to cover the check. When the overdraft occurred, respondent deposited funds into her trust account to cover the insufficiency and issued a new check with extra money for the payee's inconvenience.

         Respondent also indicated that she reconciles her trust account every two to three months. However, during the time period at issue, she was experiencing health issues and was preoccupied with federal litigation. Respondent did not provide the ODC with any reconciliations, computer records, or ledger sheets.

         Regarding trust account payments made to Office Depot, respondent indicated they were for office supplies used for trial preparation for a specific client. Although she stated she had receipts to verify these purchases, she failed to provide copies of them to the ODC. With respect to cash withdrawals from the trust account, respondent indicated the following: $1, 000 withdrawn on November 1, 2016 was to pay a cash down payment to an expert witness; $100 withdrawn on February 8, 2017 was to pay a paralegal to do research for a client's case; and $150 withdrawn on February 13, 2017 was a legal fee for representing her client, Bridgette McCoy. Regarding Ms. McCoy, whom respondent was representing on a contingency basis, respondent explained that she had raised $3, 900 on Ms. McCoy's behalf and deposited the funds into her trust account in "bits and pieces" for use to pursue Ms. McCoy's case. Respondent stated that she had records to reflect the receipt and distribution of funds on behalf of Ms. McCoy and other clients; however, she failed to provide the documents to the ODC. Finally, respondent agreed to pay the costs of the previously scheduled sworn statement as well as the current one. She also agreed to provide the ODC with the requested documents within two weeks. Respondent failed to pay the costs or provide the documents.

         Using the limited documents provided by respondent, the ODC's forensic auditor prepared an audit report of respondent's trust account for September 2016 through March 2017. The audit identified misuse of respondent's trust account as follows: checks payable to cash; cash withdrawals; payment of operating expenses (office supplies); absence of bank reconciliations; obviously varied signatures for respondent's endorsement on checks; and inability or unwillingness to provide documents and information (client agreements, settlement statements, billing records, proof of deposits, identification of transactions, etc.) necessary for completion of the audit.

         The ODC alleged that respondent's conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 1.15(a)(f) (safekeeping property of clients or third persons), 8.1(c) (failure to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation), and 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct).

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         The ODC filed the aforementioned formal charges against respondent in February 2018. Respondent failed to answer the formal charges. Accordingly, 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 ...


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