423 P.3d 412 (Colo.O.P.D.J. 2018), 17PDJ088, People v. Fagan
|Citation:||423 P.3d 412|
|Opinion Judge:||WILLIAM R. LUCERO PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE|
|Party Name:||The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Complainant, v. Charles Douglas FAGAN, #07791, Respondent.|
|Attorney:||Erin R. Kristofco Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. Charles Douglas Fagan Respondent|
|Case Date:||June 07, 2018|
|Court:||Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado|
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE BEFORE THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE 1300 BROADWAY, SUITE 250 DENVER, CO 80203.
Erin R. Kristofco Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.
Charles Douglas Fagan Respondent
OPINION AND DECISION IMPOSING SANCTIONS UNDER C.R.C.P. 251.19(c)
WILLIAM R. LUCERO PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE
Charles Douglas Fagan ("Respondent") was hired to take over a pending civil lawsuit. He entered his appearance but did not send his client a fee agreement or any other written explanation of his fee. Respondent attended mediation with his client but thereafter became unavailable. His client never paid him any attorneys fees. Respondent then failed to participate in this disciplinary proceeding. Respondents conduct in violation of Colo. RPC 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.16(d), and 8.1(b), as well as C.R.C.P. 251.5(d), warrants suspension for nine months.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Erin R. Kristofco, Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel ("the People"), filed a complaint with Presiding Disciplinary Judge William R. Lucero ("the Court") on December 27, 2017. The People sent a copy of the complaint to Respondents registered business and home addresses. Respondent failed to file an answer. By order dated February 21, 2018, the Court entered default, thereby deeming admitted the allegations and claims in the complaint.
On May 7, 2018, the Court held a sanctions hearing under C.R.C.P. 251.15(b). Kristofco represented the People; Respondent did not appear. During the hearing, the Court considered telephone testimony from Rosalyn Pergande1 and admitted the Peoples exhibits 1-3.
II. ESTABLISHED FACTS AND RULE VIOLATIONS
The Court adopts and incorporates by reference the averments in the admitted complaint, presented here in condensed form. Respondent took the oath of admission and was admitted to practice law on October 21, 1976, under attorney registration number 07791. He is thus subject to the Courts jurisdiction in this disciplinary proceeding.2
In February 2015, Rosalyn Pergande hired Respondent to take over her pending civil litigation, involving her claims of theft and sexual assault. She asked Respondent for a fee agreement, but he did not provide one. Nor did he give her any written explanation of his fee. Pergande did not pay him any attorneys fees.
On November 18, 2015, Respondent entered his appearance in Pergandes case.3 He attended mediation with Pergande on February 16, 2016. The parties did not reach a settlement but agreed to continue settlement discussions. After the mediation, Pergande was unable to reach Respondent by phone or email or by visiting his home.
Around this time, Pergande received a letter from opposing counsel stating that counsel had tried to reach Respondent but never received a response. Pergande decided to proceed with her lawsuit pro se and was able to settle the case. Respondent never withdrew as Pergandes counsel.
The People left several voicemail messages for Respondent and sent him multiple letters at his registered address, asking for information about Pergandes case. He failed to respond.
In this matter, Respondent violated four Rules of Professional Conduct:
• By failing to respond to opposing counsel and Pergande and abandoning Pergandes case, Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.3. This rule requires a lawyer to act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client.
• Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a), which requires a lawyer to reasonably communicate with a client, in two ways: by failing to keep Pergande reasonably informed about the status of her case and by failing to timely respond to her reasonable requests for information.
• Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.16(d), which mandates that a lawyer protect a clients interests upon termination of the representation, including by giving reasonable notice to the client and allowing time to hire other counsel. He contravened this rule by effectively terminating the attorney-client relationship, failing to communicate with Pergande despite her numerous attempts to contact him, and failing to take any other action on Pergandes case. He also violated this rule by failing to give Pergande notice that he had abandoned her case, to advise her to hire another lawyer, and to take steps necessary to protect her interests.
• By knowingly failing to respond to the Peoples numerous requests for information, Respondent violated Colo. RPC 8.1(b) and C.R.C.P. 251.5(d). These rules require a lawyer to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority.
The American Bar Association Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions ("ABA Standards ")4 and Colorado Supreme Court case law guide the imposition of sanctions for lawyer misconduct.5 When...
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