The Supreme Court of Louisiana has disbarred an attorney after finding that he failed to refund unearned attorney’s fees to 26 clients. In re Charles Tanner Phillips, II, a Louisiana attorney accepted and kept attorney’s fees from multiple clients, but did not perform any substantive legal work in return.
One incident involved a client, who paid the attorney to seek modification of a child custody decree, which had entered in California. The attorney filed a petition to commence the modification proceedings, but the Court rejected the pleading because the attorney had failed to include a copy of the California judgment. Upon learning of this, the client discharged the attorney and requested a refund of the funds paid.
After the attorney refused, the client reported the incident to the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel (“ODC”). The attorney denied having received the fee, and stated that the money had actually been paid to his former employer. However, the ODC examined the attorney’s bank records, which proved he was paid prior to his employment with the firm. The ODC ordered the attorney to refund the money, but he failed and refused to do so.
After receiving several other complaints about the attorney reporting similar conduct, the ODC filed formal charges against him with the Louisiana Disciplinary Board. The Board reviewed the evidence and recommended that the attorney be permanently disbarred.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana accepted the Board’s recommendation and found that the attorney’s conduct violated Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4 (c), which prohibits attorneys from engaging in conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Based on the number and severity of the complaints, the Court disbarred the attorney.
Decision: In re Charles Tanner Phillips, II