Attorney Discipline

Utah State Bar Ethics Hotline
Call the Bar’s Ethics Hotline at (801) 531-9110 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for fast, informal ethics advice. Leave a detailed message describing the problem and within a twenty-four hour workday period a lawyer from the Office of Professional Conduct will give you ethical help about small everyday matters and larger complex issues.
More information about the Bar’s Ethics Hotline may be found at www.utahbar.org/opc/opc_ethics_hotline.html. Information about the formal Ethics Advisory Opinion process can be found at www.utahbar.org/rules_ops_pols/index_of_opinions.html.
ADMONITION
On March 15, 2012, 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 3.5(b) (Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal), 8.4(d) (Misconduct), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
The attorney represented an employer in an administrative hearing before the Workforce Services Board. After receiving an unfavorable ruling, the attorney represented the employer in an appeal of the unemployment eligibility decision before the Utah Court of Appeals. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the decision and issued its decision. The attorney sent a letter to the judges involved in the case. The letter was entered on the court’s docket. A copy of the letter was not sent to opposing counsel on the case. The letter criticized the court’s decision and asked the court to reconsider the merits of his arguments. The criticism was made in a disrespectful and condescending manner. At the time the attorney sent the letter to the judges, the time for appealing the decision had passed.
Mitigating factors:
Absence of prior discipline and absence of dishonest or selfish motive.
Aggravating factors:
Refusal to acknowledge wrongful conduct and begrudging acknowledgment that the language could be offensive.
ADMONITION
On March 22, 2012, 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 1.2(a) (Scope of Representation) and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
An attorney was hired for a bankruptcy matter. The attorney failed to adequately communicate with the client regarding the consequences of the trustees’ objections. The failed communication with the clients resulted in the attorney allowing the conformation hearing to go forward with an unacceptable payment plan for the debtors. The client should have approved the payment in advance. The attorney failed to communicate with the clients regarding the consequences of the hearing and the strategy being employed. The attorney’s behavior was generally negligent and caused injury.
Mitigating factors:
Lack of prior discipline.
ADMONITION
On March 26, 2012, 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 8.4(c) (Misconduct) and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
The attorney was hired to represent a client in a custody and child support matter. The attorney received an initial payment with additional payments to be paid in the future. As the representation progressed, the client was unable to make payments and the amount owed to the attorney continued to grow. The client and the attorney exchanged text messages where the attorney indicated the client could pay the bills in “other ways.” In an effort to persuade the client, the attorney indicated they would write off a set amount of the bill for each “visit.” Although it appears that the client considered accepting the attorney’s offer, the client did so only because the client did not want the attorney to withdraw from representation. The client acknowledged that the attorney’s representation was not negatively impacted by the text message exchanges. After the client submitted the complaint to the OPC, the attorney was offered a diversion, with one of the terms being that the attorney would write off the remainder of the client’s bill. The attorney negligently sent an email to the client believing that the client was aware of the diversion proposal. The attorney believed that the terms of diversion were not determined with regard to whether any fee waiver would be less than the total outstanding amount. Little injury was caused.
Mitigating factors:
Personal problems; seeking and receiving counseling; and remorse.
ADMONITION
On March 26, 2012, 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 1.1 (Competence), 1.3 (Diligence), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
The attorney failed to review the client’s documentation. The attorney failed to adequately prepare for the client’s administrative hearing. The attorney failed to timely submit evidence and review documents submitted by the client and others. This resulted in little or no injury.
Mitigating factors:
Lack of prior discipline.
ADMONITION
On April 12, 2012, 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 1.4(a) (Communication), 1.15(d) (Safekeeping Property), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
Following the termination of the representation, the attorney knowingly failed to provide the former client a full accounting of the retainer despite requests for such accounting. The attorney negligently failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the retainer. The attorney failed to inform the client about circumstances when disgorgement of the retainer might occur by including a disgorgement provision in the fee agreement. There was generally little or no injury because the fee was earned and reasonable in light of the services rendered.
Mitigating factors:
No prior history of discipline; no dishonest or selfish motive; and eventual (although untimely) accounting was provided.
Aggravating factors:
Refusal to acknowledge wrongful conduct; substantial experience in practice; and vulnerability of the client.
PUBLIC REPRIMAND
On February 28, 2012, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Public Reprimand against Bryan T. Adamson, for violation of Rules 1.4(a) (Communication), 1.5(b) (Fees), 1.15(d) (Safekeeping Property), 7.1 (Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services), 7.2(c) (Advertising), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
Mr. Adamson and his client entered into a contingency fee agreement wherein Mr. Adamson agreed to represent the client in a medical malpractice case. The client paid Mr. Adamson an advance to cover filing costs. The client later sent Mr. Adamson an email terminating the representation and requesting a return of the filing costs. Mr. Adamson responded that he would not refund any money because he had spent significant hours on the case. Mr. Adamson further told the client that he would place a lien on the case if she took the case to a new attorney. Mr. Adamson told the client her case was not worth pursuing. The client sent three follow up requests for Mr. Adamson to provide an itemization of his fees. Mr. Adamson refused to provide an itemization of his fees. The client again requested that Mr. Adamson document his lien claim so that she could make a decision about whether to proceed with her case. Mr. Adamson did not respond to this request. Mr. Adamson had not done the amount of work on the case to justify the figure he used when threatening to place the lien. Mr. Adamson’s yellow page advertising included a guarantee that he would pay a client $1000 if they did not win their case. Mr. Adamson’s firm website did not contain his name. Mr. Adamson was informed by the OPC that the website did not contain his name, but he failed to take steps to correct it.
PUBLIC REPRIMAND
On April 9, 2012, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Public Reprimand against Bryan T. Adamson, for violation of Rules 1.4(a) (Communication), 1.4(b) (Communication), 1.5(b) (Fees), 1.16(b) (Declining or Terminating Representation), 1.16(d) (Declining or Terminating Representation), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
Mr. Adamson was retained to represent a client in a divorce. The fee agreement was signed by the client’s mother, who also paid the fee. The fee agreement was entitled “Stipulated Divorce Flat Fee Retainer Agreement.” The fee agreement provided that the case would be handled on a flat fee basis, but in the event of trial, the client would pay an hourly rate. Mr. Adamson filed the Petition for Divorce and later sent the client an invoice for an amount over and above the flat fee already paid. Prior to sending the bill, Mr. Adamson did not communicate to the client that he had converted the case from a flat fee to an hourly rate. Later Mr. Adamson told the client he would not complete the case until the fees were paid. Mr. Adamson eventually withdrew from the case. Mr. Adamson admitted that when he withdrew from the case there was only about thirty minutes of work left to do on the case to get the divorce finalized.
SUSPENSION
On April 17, 2012, the Honorable Steven L. Hansen, Fourth District Court, entered an Order of Discipline: One Year Suspension suspending Earl B. Taylor from the practice of law for one year for violation of Rules 1.1 (Competence), 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4(a) (Communication), 1.15(a) (Safekeeping Property), 7.3(c) (Direct Contact with Prospective Clients), 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
Potential clients received a form letter from Mr. Taylor advertising Mr. Taylor’s bankruptcy-related services. The form letter indicated that Mr. Taylor could assist them in preventing foreclosure of their home. The phrase “Advertising Material” was not located on the form letter or the envelope. At their initial consultation, the clients paid Mr. Taylor money toward his advance fee and provided Mr. Taylor with a packet containing their asset and debt information. Later, when the clients sought to pay the remainder of the advance fee, Mr. Taylor asked them to deposit cash directly into his personal bank account. They deposited the money into his account. During the period of the representation, Mr. Taylor did not have a client trust account. Mr. Taylor also did not place the advance fee into a client trust account. The clients were expecting to pay the remaining balance at the next court date. Mr. Taylor filed a Petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on behalf of the clients. The clients paid the filing fee. Later, the clients were notified that Mr. Taylor failed to submit numerous required documents to further their Bankruptcy. Mr. Taylor had to provide the documents or the Petition would be dismissed. Mr. Taylor failed to submit the documents and the Petition was dismissed. After learning of the dismissal, the clients confronted Mr. Taylor who agreed to re-file their Petition. A second Petition was filed. The Bankruptcy Court served Mr. Taylor with a Deficiency Notice identifying numerous documents that he had failed to provide. Later the client’s second Petition for Bankruptcy was dismissed. The clients contacted Mr. Taylor upon learning that their second Petition for Bankruptcy had been dismissed. Mr. Taylor indicated he would pay for and re-file the Petition for a third time. Mr. Taylor failed to file the third Petition for Bankruptcy. The clients repeatedly tried to communicate with Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor stopped responding to the client’s telephone calls and emails. The clients were forced to retain another attorney to complete their Bankruptcy. Mr. Taylor was served with a Notice of Informal Complaint (“NOIC”). Mr. Taylor failed to submit a response to the NOIC.
SUSPENSION
On March 29, 2012, the Honorable Paul G. Maughan, Third District Court, entered an Order of Discipline: Suspension suspending Jeffrey M. Gallup from the practice of law from January 26, 2010 until March 29, 2012 for violation of Rules 8.4(b) (Misconduct), 8.4(c) (Misconduct), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary:
On January 22, 2009, Mr. Gallup entered a no contest plea to one count of Violation of a Protective Order, a 3rd degree felony. On April 30, 2009, Mr. Gallup entered a guilty plea to one count of Violation of a Protective Order, a 3rd degree felony. On June 30, 2009, Mr. Gallup entered a guilty plea to one count of Violation of a Protective Order, a 3rd degree felony. On August 18, 2009, Mr. Gallup entered a guilty plea to two counts of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs. Mr. Gallup was placed on interim suspension on January 26, 2010 based upon the felony convictions. The suspension was lifted on March 29, 2012 allowing Mr. Gallup to file for reinstatement when he chooses to do so.

RESIGNATION WITH DISCIPLINE PENDING
On March 28, 2012, the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order Accepting Resignation with Discipline Pending concerning Cheri K. Gochberg for violation of Rules 8.4(b) (Misconduct) and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. The effective date of the Order is September 19, 2011.
In summary:
On November 5, 2010, Ms. Gochberg was charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs (4 counts), Possession or Use of A Controlled Substance (2 counts), Reckless Driving, and No Proof of Insurance. On March 25, 2011, Ms. Gochberg pled guilty to and was convicted of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, a third degree felony, for that incident.
On March 4, 2011 Ms. Gochberg was charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs while an Alcohol Restricted Driver. On March 28, 2011, Ms. Gochberg pled guilty to and was convicted of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, a third degree felony. These felony convictions were Ms. Gochberg’s fourth and fifth related DUI convictions within the last ten years.
Ms. Gochberg was placed on interim suspension on September 19, 2011, as a result of the convictions.
DISBARMENT
On March 27, 2012, Justice Thomas R. Lee, Utah Supreme Court, issued an Opinion disbarring Clayne I. Corey from the practice of law.
In 1999, a client retained Corey & Lund to represent her in a personal injury action. The client signed a fee agreement with Corey & Lund. The fee agreement allowed for a contingent fee of 33.3% of the settlement, unless the case went to trial. The case settled prior to trial. In 2000, the client accepted a settlement offer of $122,500. On February 25, 2000, Mr. Corey spoke with the insurance adjuster. A settlement check in the amount of $122,500 made out to the client and to her attorney, Clayne I. Corey was issued on February 25, 2000. On February 29, 2000, $124,803.60 was deposited into Mr. Corey’s operating account. This amount included the client’s settlement funds. Mr. Corey was the signator on this operating account and had control over the account. Mr. Corey knew early on that the client’s settlement funds went into his operating account. Mr. Corey failed to deposit the client’s settlement funds into a client trust account. Mr. Corey knew that checks were being written against the funds in the operating account. The account balance for the operating account went from $128,916.14 at the end of February, 2000 to $2909.12 at the end of June, 2000. The client did not authorize her settlement funds to be used by Mr. Corey for any purpose. She did not authorize or sign the Trust documents prepared by Mr. Corey and did not authorize or sign the Promissory Note prepared by Mr. Corey.
The client thought that the money was in Mr. Corey’s trust account for safekeeping and agreed to receive $500 payments each month for a period of time. The client received twenty-one payments of $500. The client eventually decided that she wanted to receive the bulk of her settlement funds. The client requested a return of her file, the return of the remaining settlement money, and an accounting of her settlement. Mr. Corey failed to return his client’s file. Mr. Corey failed to return unearned excess funds to his client. Mr. Corey failed to properly account for the settlement funds. Although the case settled in early 2000 Mr. Corey did not pay the majority of the lien holders until December 2000 leaving the client exposed for those bills. Mr. Corey failed to handle the third party claims in a timely way. Mr. Corey failed to protect funds belonging to his client.
Aggravating factors:
Prior discipline, pattern of carelessness relating to the safekeeping of client funds, substantial experience in the practice of law, no good faith effort to make restitution.
Mitigating factors:
Medical problems, absence of dishonest or selfish motive, remorse.
On November 23, 2010, the Honorable John Paul Kennedy, Third District Court, suspended Mr. Corey for three years, and stayed the suspension, for violation of Rules 1.15(a) (Safekeeping Property), 1.15(b) (Safekeeping Property), 1.15(c) (Safekeeping Property), 1.16(d) (Declining or Terminating Representation), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
The OPC filed an appeal with the Utah Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s Opinion stated,
We reverse the district court and conclude that Corey should be disbarred for intentional misappropriation of [his client’s] funds. We first hold that Corey’s acquisition and use of [his client’s] funds for the operational needs of the firm was knowing and intentional, thereby placing him squarely under a presumptive disbarment standard. Second, we hold that Corey’s mental impairment does not represent truly compelling mitigation evidence sufficient to rebut the presumption of disbarment. We accordingly reverse and order that Corey be disbarred.
DISBARMENT
On January 26, 2012, the Honorable Deno Himonas, Third District Court, entered an Order of Discipline: Disbarment against Steven B. Smith for violation of Rules 1.1 (Competence), 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4(a) (Communication), 1.15(a) (Safekeeping Property), 1.15(c) (Safekeeping Property), 1.15(d) (Safekeeping Property), 1.16(d) (Declining Representation), 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), 8.4(c) (Misconduct), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
In summary there are three matters:
Mr. Smith filed a complaint but did not diligently prosecute the case. Mr. Smith did not inform his clients about milestones or developments in their case. Mr. Smith did not timely file a response to a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the first defendant and did not inform his clients about the court’s order granting partial summary judgment. Shortly thereafter, the first defendant passed away and Mr. Smith did not timely inform his clients about the death. Although Mr. Smith felt incompetent to pursue the claim against the estate of a deceased defendant, he did not withdraw from the representation. He informed his clients he would pursue claims against the defendant’s heirs but he did not pursue the claim nor did he inform his clients that he was not pursuing the claim. Mr. Smith misled his clients about the status of their case. At an Order to Show Cause hearing, the court ordered the parties to certify the case for trial within 120 days or the case would be dismissed. Mr. Smith informed his clients that he met with the court and opposing counsel but did not inform them the meeting was due to the court’s Order to Show Cause. Mr. Smith did not timely proceed with discovery. Mr. Smith did not respond to the second defendant’s motion for Summary Judgment which was granted by the court. Later, Mr. Smith informed his clients that the second defendant’s attorney wanted to take their deposition and did not inform them that the court had granted summary judgment for the second defendant. The owner of the third defendant company filed an answer for the company pro se. Mr. Smith informed his clients that he would move to strike the answer for the third defendant. Mr. Smith did not move to strike the remaining third defendant’s answer and did not pursue the case against the remaining defendant. Mr. Smith did not submit a certificate of readiness for trial and the court dismissed the case for lack of prosecution. Mr. Smith did not inform his clients that the court dismissed the case. Mr. Smith did not respond to the Notice of Informal Complaint served by the OPC.
In the second matter, Mr. Smith wrote a check to be paid from his attorney trust account. The check was presented for payment from funds in Mr. Smith’s attorney trust account. There were insufficient funds in Mr. Smith’s trust account to cover the check. A financial institution sent the OPC a notice of insufficient funds (“NSF”) regarding Mr. Smith’s trust account. The OPC sent Mr. Smith several requests for a written response and documentation supporting his explanation for the NSF. Mr. Smith did not respond to the OPC’s request for a written response regarding the NSF. The OPC served Mr. Smith with a NOIC. Mr. Smith did not timely respond to the NOIC.
In the last matter, a client sustained severe injuries while at work. The client had settled with an insurance company; however the payments had not been made. The insurance company had become insolvent and Mr. Smith was working with an insolvency group to obtain payments for his client. The client understood Mr. Smith would be paid one-third of anything they received and would work out any fees owed to Mr. Smith’s old firm from the one-third paid to Mr. Smith. The client received a partial payment from the insolvency group. After the payment was received, Mr. Smith informed the client that he was working on the case and trying to secure the additional settlement funds. Later a check was issued to the client and Steven B. Smith, Esq. as payment of $412,500.00. The check was endorsed by Mr. Smith. The check was deposited into Mr. Smith’s trust account. The client did not endorse the check nor did the client give Mr. Smith permission to endorse the check on the client’s behalf. Mr. Smith did not notify the client that Mr. Smith had received the check. Mr. Smith wrote numerous checks against his account totaling roughly about $405,000.00. Mr. Smith continued to tell the client that he was working on the case. The client had financial difficulties due to his inability to continue his job as a result of his injuries. The client asked Mr. Smith if it was possible to get some of the settlement at that time. During the time Mr. Smith was purportedly working on the client’s matter, Mr. Smith advanced the client payments that were to be deducted from the settlement monies once the settlement monies were received. Mr. Smith did not inform the client he had received the settlement funds. Mr. Smith helped the client find a third party lender to lend the client additional funds. Mr. Smith did not inform the client he had previously received the check when he helped the client find a lender. The client eventually called the insolvency group directly and was informed that two years previously a check had been issued to him and Steven B. Smith, Esq. When the client confronted Mr. Smith about the check, Mr. Smith initially indicated there had been a mistake. The client has not received the monies from the check from Mr. Smith. The client’s new counsel requested the file from Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith did not timely provide the file to the client or the client’s new counsel.

Comments are closed.