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In re Casteel

Supreme Court of Louisiana

December 20, 2019

IN RE: DURWARD D. CASTEEL

          ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM.

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Durward D. Casteel, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently on interim suspension pursuant to a joint motion of the parties filed in November 2018. In re: Casteel, 18-1745 (La. 11/5/18), 255 So.3d 1038.

         FORMAL CHARGES

         Count I

         Respondent was hired to defend Patrick O'Donnell against a claim pending in Oklahoma. On February 25, 2015, Mr. O'Donnell forwarded to respondent the sum of $350, 000 to fund Mr. O'Donnell's contribution of any future settlement. When a settlement was reached, Mr. O'Donnell called upon respondent to fund his contribution to the settlement using the funds entrusted to respondent for safe keeping. Respondent advised Mr. O'Donnell that he had converted the funds to his own use and that they were no longer available. In a sworn statement to the ODC, respondent confirmed that he converted the entirety of Mr. O'Donnell's funds.[1]

         Count II

         In 2014, respondent was hired to defend Criterion Claim Solutions of Omaha in a lawsuit against a named insured. The carrier negotiated a settlement of the claim and forwarded to respondent a $10, 000 check payable to the plaintiff to be used for the completion of the settlement. Upon receipt of the check, respondent forged the plaintiff's name, cashed the check, and converted the funds to his own use. In a sworn statement to the ODC, respondent confirmed that he forged the plaintiff's name on the settlement check and converted the funds to his own use.

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

         In December 2018, the ODC filed formal charges against respondent, alleging that his conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct), 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer), and 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

         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 documentary evidence on the issue of sanctions. Respondent filed nothing for the hearing committee's consideration.

         Hearing Committee Report

         After considering the ODC's deemed admitted submission, the hearing committee made factual findings consistent with the deemed admitted factual allegations set forth in the formal charges. The committee additionally found that respondent failed to repay the converted funds. Based on these facts, the committee determined that respondent violated the Rules of Professional Conduct as alleged in the formal charges.

         The committee then determined that respondent violated duties owed to his clients and the public. His conduct was knowing, willful, and intentional. His clients suffered significant actual harm as a direct result of his actions. After considering the ABA's Standards for Imposing ...


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