On June 23, 2008, the Vice-Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Admonition against an attorney for violation of Rules 3.2 (Expediting Litigation), 3.3(d) (Candor Toward the Tribunal), 7.3(a) (Direct Contact with Prospective Clients), 8.4(d) (Misconduct), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The attorney solicited professional employment from a person in a nursing home without invitation and without contacting the person’s family members. The attorney filed an Ex-Parte Motion for Appointment of Counsel along with a Request for Guardianship and Conservatorship for the person in the nursing home. The attorney did not disclose all material facts to the tribunal in his ex-parte communications including how the attorney was in contact with the client; the fact that Adult Protective Services (APS) was not investigating all of the children of the client, and that his client was not in imminent harm. The attorney continued to fight over the appointment of counsel with his client’s children after APS determined there was no exploitation. The attorney’s response to the OPC and personal attacks toward his client’s children were unprofessional and detrimental to the administration of justice.
Mitigating factor: isolated incident and not a pattern.
On May 22, 2008, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Admonition against an attorney for violation of Rules 4.4(a) (Respect for Rights of Third Persons), 8.4(e) (Misconduct), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The attorney’s client, a government agency, inadvertently sent confidential information to a person who had an open case with the agency. When the person did not return the documents on request, the attorney called the person leaving a message that threatened to have the police come to retrieve the documents, to seek criminal charges or to get a warrant in order to affect the return of the documents, however the attorney had no creditable legal recourse for these threats. The Committee determined that the attorney’s voicemail was inappropriate and unprofessional.
On May 12, 2008, the Honorable Robert P. Faust, Third District Court, entered an Order of Discipline: Public Reprimand against Jeanne T. Campbell Lund for violation of Rules 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4(a) (Communication), 1.16(a) (Declining or Terminating Representation), 3.2 (Expediting Litigation), 5.3(a) (Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
On or around October 2002, Ms. Lund and her husband were retained to pursue a personal injury case. On April 17, 2003, the Utah Supreme Court accepted her husband’s resignation with discipline pending from the Utah State Bar. Ms. Lund’s husband became her office manager and/or legal assistant. Ms. Lund did not timely pursue settlement or litigation of her client’s personal injury case. During the representation, Ms. Lund failed to timely communicate with her client concerning the status of his case. At the end of 2003 or the beginning of 2004, Ms. Lund left the practice of law to work in the mortgage business. Ms. Lund failed to notify her client that she was not pursuing his personal injury case. Ms. Lund did not notify the insurance company for the opposing party that she was withdrawing as counsel from the case. After Ms. Lund began working in the mortgage business, she failed to supervise her husband’s access to the client’s file. In or around March 2004, her husband engaged in settlement negotiations with the insurance company in the personal injury case. Her husband accepted a settlement offer for the client, but did not inform the client of the settlement offer. Her husband did not receive the client’s authorization for the settlement offer prior to accepting the final settlement. On or about March 16, 2004, the insurance company issued a settlement check payable to Ms. Lund’s husband and the client. Although the settlement check was endorsed and cashed the client did not endorse the settlement check and did not receive any of the monies from the settlement check. At the time of the settlement negotiations with the insurance company, Ms. Lund did not directly supervise her husband’s work.
On May 12, 2008, the Honorable Eric A. Ludlow, Fifth District Court entered a Reciprocal Order of Discipline: Public Reprimand against Rulon J. Huntsman for violation of Rules 1.3 (Diligence), 5.3 (Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants), 5.5 (Unauthorized Practice of Law), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, based upon his conduct in Nevada.
Mr. Huntsman and a non-lawyer presented to the public as a single business entity, being housed in the same building and lacking signs indicating that they were separate businesses. One client hired the non-lawyer believing that the non-lawyer was an attorney. When the client requested his attorney appear on his behalf, Mr. Huntsman appeared, but was not familiar with the case. Mr. Huntsman relied on the non-lawyer to collect the fee and prepare documents for the client.
On September 6, 2007, a Public Reprimand was issued in Nevada by the State Bar of Nevada Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board. Based on the findings of the Nevada Board, the Fifth District Court entered an order of equivalent discipline.
On May 30, 2008, the Honorable Sandra N. Pueler, Third Judicial District Court, entered Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order of Discipline: Suspension against Frank J. Falk for violation of Rules 1.1 (Competence), 1.2(a) (Scope of Representation), 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4(a) (Communication), 1.4(b) (Communication), 1.5(a) (Fees), 3.2 (Expediting Litigation), 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), 8.4(c) (Misconduct), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The suspension is effective June 30, 2008. Mr. Falk is suspended for three years.
In one case, Mr. Falk was hired to initiate an action against Salt Lake County (County) for injuries his client sustained in an automobile accident. The client hired Mr. Falk on or around January 2, 2003. During four years of representation, Mr. Falk had infrequent contact and did not routinely make himself available for telephone calls from his client. Mr. Falk failed to consult with his client concerning the process of the case, settlement of the case or what was necessary for trial. He also failed to prepare her case and to prepare her to testify. When an offer was made, Mr. Falk failed to notify his client who eventually found out from a third party months later.
In another matter, Mr. Falk was retained to handle some collection matters. Mr. Falk was the responsible attorney on the cases. During the course of Mr. Falk’s representation, Mr. Falk handled at least 11 cases. Mr. Falk received checks for fees and costs to be performed on the cases. The files were removed by the client because of inaction and failure to communicate. In some cases the statute of limitations were missed due to the inactivity of Mr. Falk.
On June 24, 2008, the Honorable Judith S. Atherton, Third Judicial District Court, entered a Reciprocal Order of Disbarment disbarring Dennis F. Olsen from the practice of law in Utah based upon his disbarment in Washington.
On September 19, 2006, the Supreme Court of Washington (“Washington”) entered an Order disbarring Mr. Olsen from practicing before that court based on his conduct in violation of Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 3.2, 8.4(b), 8.4(c), 8.4(i), and 8.4(l).
The findings of the Washington adjudicatory body are summarized as follows:
Mr. Olsen knowingly withheld taxes from an employee but did not remit the withheld taxes to the proper federal and state agencies. Mr. Olsen also committed theft by not remitting the withheld taxes to the proper authorities in that he did not return the money to the employee. After Mr. Olsen fired the employee, Mr. Olsen attempted to coerce the employee into taking a case, using the withheld taxes as leverage. Thereafter, the employee filed a complaint with the Washington State Bar. During the investigation of the Bar complaint, Mr. Olsen attempted to mislead the Bar concerning his wrongful conduct with regard to the taxes.