The Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, located in Denver, has suspended a Colorado attorney from practicing law, following an investigation by the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel (“ARC”). In People v. Samuel Reyes Escamilla, an attorney was disciplined as a result of his conduct in three separate client matters.
In the first case, a client retained the attorney to assist her in obtaining legal immigrant status in the United States. The attorney accepted payment and paperwork from the client, but failed to file a petition for legal status on behalf of the client. The attorney ceased contact with the client, and also refused to communicate with her new counsel. The attorney eventually returned the client’s file and refunded the payment, but only after ARC began its investigation.
In the second case, the attorney was hired to represent a client in a bankruptcy proceeding, and to resolve a dispute regarding the client’s car loan. The client paid the attorney a fee to commence work on the case. The attorney subsequently forwarded a copy of a motion to the client, causing him to believe that the attorney had re-opened the bankruptcy case, but the attorney never actually filed the motion. The attorney failed to respond to any further communications from the client or perform any further work on the case. Once again, the attorney only refunded the client’s money after ARC commenced its investigation.
In the third case, the attorney represented a client in a criminal matter and requested production of discovery materials from the state prosecutor. The attorney tendered a check for copying costs, which was dishonored due to insufficient funds. He then ignored the prosecutor’s subsequent requests for payment until after ARC began its investigation.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the attorney and ARC submitted a conditional admission of misconduct to the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, William Lucero. The Judge accepted the admission, holding that the attorney had knowingly violated multiple Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, including: (1) Rule 1.3, by failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing clients, (2) Rule 1.4(a)(3), by failing to keep clients reasonably informed about the status of their cases, (3) Rule 1.16(d), by failing to take steps to protect his clients’ interests and surrender his client files upon termination of his services, and (4) Rule 8.4(c), by engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The Court ordered that the attorney be suspended for 1 year and 1 day. All but 3 months of the suspension was stayed pending successful completion of a probationary period, ethics training, and on-going monitoring of his practice.
Decision: People v. Samuel Reyes Escamilla