|The Colorado Lawyer|
Vol. 42, No. 3 [Page 107]
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From the Courts
Colorado Disciplinary Cases
Disciplinary Case Summaries
The summaries of disciplinary case Opinions and Conditional Admissions of Misconduct are prepared by the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge (PDJ) and are provided as a service by the Colorado Bar Association (CBA). The CBA cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries. The full text of the disciplinary Opinions, when published by the PDJ, follows the summaries page(s). The summaries and full-text Opinions also are accessible from the CBA website: www.cobar.org (click on "Opinions/Rules/Statutes"). Opinions, including exhibits, complaints, amended complaints, and summaries, also are available at the PDJ website, www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PDJ/pdj.htm, and on LexisNexis.®
Summaries of Decisions Issued by the PDJ
No. 10PDJ088. People v. Cole. 11/30/2011. Attorney Suspended.
The Hearing Board suspended Derek W. Cole, attorney registration number 14761, for ninety days. The suspension was effective July 23, 2012.
Cole failed to competently represent his client, who was accused of sexual assault on a child, pattern of abuse. Cole, who had never before accepted a case involving such charges, did not acquire sufficient knowledge or skill to conduct his client’s defense, nor did he adequately prepare or investigate the case. His misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to CRCP 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 1.1.
No. 12PDJ016. People v. Forsyth. 12/17/2012. Complaint Dismissed.
Following a hearing, the Hearing Board dismissed the complaint against Christopher Paul Forsyth, attorney registration number 22608. The People asserted that Forsyth engaged in frivolous litigation and prejudiced the administration of justice, in violation of Colo. RPC 3.1 and 8.4(d), by filing an appeal that the Colorado Court of Appeals deemed to be without merit. The Hearing Board concluded that the People failed to meet their burden of proving violations of Colo. RPC 3.1 and 8.4(d) by clear and convincing evidence.
No. 10PDJ097. Miranda v. People. 12/20/2012. Reinstatement Order Vacated.
The PDJ issued a notice vacating the Hearing Board’s order reinstating Michael T. Miranda, attorney registration number 24702, to the practice of law. The Hearing Board’s order was reversed by the Colorado Supreme Court, which concluded that Miranda cannot be reinstated until he has completed his felony sentence. Effective December 20, 2012, Miranda’s name was stricken from the list of attorneys authorized to practice law in the State of Colorado. No opinion was issued.
No. 12PDJ050. People v. O’Buckley. 12/21/2012. Attorney Reinstated.
The PDJ approved a stipulation and agreement concerning reinstatement, pursuant to CRCP 251.29, and reinstated Shawn C. O’Buckley, attorney registration number 32492, to the practice of law. Reinstatement was effective December 21, 2012. No opinion was issued.
No. 10PDJ131. People v. Waples-Trefil. 12/6/2012. Attorney Privately Admonished.
On remand from an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court, the Hearing Board imposed a private admonition on Dominique Waples-Trefil, attorney registration number 36986, effective January 10, 2013. Pursuant to CRCP 251.6(d) and 251.31(i), the fact of this private admonition is public information but the private admonition itself may not be published or otherwise disclosed.
Summaries of Decisions Regarding
Conditional Admission of Misconduct Issued by the PDJ
The PDJ’s approval of a Conditional Admission of Misconduct does not result in a written Opinion but only a brief Order, which does not constitute precedent. Conditional Admissions of Misconduct are public record and are available for review at the Office of the PDJ, 1560 Broadway, Ste. 675, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 866-6658; www.coloradosupremecourt.com/PDJ/pdj.htm. They also are available on LexisNexis.®
No. 12PDJ044. People v. Bernhardt. 01/4/2013. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Robert Leroy Bernhardt, attorney registration number 28915, for one year and one day, all but sixty days stayed on the successful completion of a three-year period of probation, with conditions. The suspension was effective February 8, 2013.
In one matter, Bernhardt failed to respond to his client’s inquiries and to opposing counsel, and failed to file necessary disclosures and pleadings in the case. As a result, his client’s case was dismissed with prejudice. In a second matter, Bernhardt was hired to assist a client with a modification of parenting time in a post-decree divorce case. Bernhardt failed to respond to a motion for attorney fees and untimely paid those fees on his client’s behalf and did not object to a motion to modify his client’s child support. Bernhardt’s misconduct caused his client to pay more child support than appropriate under the circumstances. His misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to CRCP 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4(a), 3.2, and 8.4(d).
No. 13PDJ003. People v. Coulter. 01/16/2013. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended Nancy Elizabeth Coulter, attorney registration number 21601, for two years, with reinstatement conditions to include restitution. The suspension was effective January 16, 2013.
In one matter, Coulter appeared in court smelling of alcohol, and in five others, she failed to appear in court on behalf of her clients. Coulter did not properly advance several clients’ cases, failed to communicate with them, failed to return client files, failed to communicate the basis for her fees in writing, and failed to render services for which a client had paid. Coulter’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to CRCP 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 1.3, 1.4(a)(3), 1.5(b), 1.15(a) and (b), 1.16(d), 3.2, 3.4(c), and 8.4(d).
No. 12PDJ002, consolidated with Nos. 12PDJ007 & 12PDJ070. People v. Price. 01/17/2013. Attorney Suspended.
The PDJ approved a conditional admission of misconduct submitted by the parties and suspended George C. Price, attorney registration number 10652, for two years and four months. The suspension was effective January 17, 2013.
Price failed to properly wind down his practice after his suspension in May 2012. He failed to provide his clients notice of his suspension and continued to practice law while suspended. Price also disclosed his client’s identity and case information to another law firm without obtaining his client’s consent. Price failed to provide an accounting to a client before distributing the client’s funds to a third party. He also failed to disclose his receipt of attorney fees to the law firm that employed him, keeping all of those fees for himself without the law firm’s permission. Price’s misconduct constituted grounds for the imposition of discipline pursuant to CRCP 251.5, and violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a) and (b), 1.6(a), 1.15(a) and (c), 3.3(a)(1), 3.4(c), 5.5(a), and 8.4(c).
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