452 P.3d 212 (Colo.O.P.D.J. 2019), 18PDJ051, People v. Walls

Docket Nº:Number: 18PDJ051
Citation:452 P.3d 212
Opinion Judge:WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE
Party Name:The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Complainant, v. Ronald G. WALLS II, #48556, Respondent.
Case Date:May 10, 2019
Court:Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado
 
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Page 212

452 P.3d 212 (Colo.O.P.D.J. 2019)

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Complainant,

v.

Ronald G. WALLS II, #48556, Respondent.

No. Number: 18PDJ051

Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado

May 10, 2019

Page 213

OPINION AND DECISION IMPOSING SANCTIONS UNDER C.R.C.P. 251.19(c)

WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE

In two client matters, Ronald G. Walls II ("Respondent") knowingly converted unearned retainers and failed to protect his clients’ interests when the representations terminated. Respondent’s misconduct warrants disbarment.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Under C.R.C.P. 251.8, Respondent was immediately suspended by the Colorado Supreme Court on September 27, 2018.

On October 25, 2018, Justin P. Moore, Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel ("the People"), filed a complaint with the Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("the Court"). The same day, the People sent copies of the complaint to Respondent via certified and regular mail at his registered business and last-known addresses.[1] When the due date for Respondent’s answer had passed, the People sent him a letter on November 16, 2018, reminding him to answer.

On December 14, 2018, the People moved for entry of default. The Court granted the People’s default motion in January 2019. Upon the entry of default, the Court deemed all facts set forth in the complaint admitted and all rule violations established by clear and convincing evidence.[2]

At the sanctions hearing held under C.R.C.P. 251.15(b) on April 22, 2019, Moore represented the People. Respondent did not appear. During the hearing, the People’s exhibits 1-4 were admitted into evidence, and the Court heard testimony from Sadie Calkins and Jessica Tuck.3 Also at the hearing, the People requested— and were granted— an additional fourteen days to supplement their request for restitution. The People did not file any such supplement within that fourteen-day window.

II. ESTABLISHED FACTS AND RULE VIOLATIONS

Respondent took the oath of admission and was admitted to practice law in Colorado on July 29, 2015, under attorney registration number 48556. He is thus subject to the Court’s jurisdiction in this disciplinary proceeding.4

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Billing Records

In 2017, Respondent opened a law practice called Walls Law LLC. Around June 28, 2017, Walls Law LLC, through Respondent, opened a COLTAF account at Wells Fargo Bank. At all relevant times, Respondent had signatory and supervisory authority for this COLTAF account. Bank statements reflect the following balances in the COLTAF account5 :

• July 1, 2017: $ 25.00

• July 31, 2017: $ 12,351.50

• August 31, 2017: $ 12,337.00

• September 30, 2017: $ 13,720.74

• October 31, 2017: $ 11,045.96

• November 30, 2017: $ 12,620.96

• December 31, 2017: $ 10,671.30

• January 31, 2018: $ 6,941.30

• February 28, 2018: $ 3,291.30

• March 31, 2018: $ 41.30

• April 30, 2018: $ 41.30

Calkins Matter

Respondent represented Sadie Calkins in post-decree litigation against Calkins’s ex-husband. On July 12, 2017, Calkins paid Respondent a retainer of $ 2,500.00, which he deposited into the Walls Law LLC COLTAF account.

On July 18, 2017, Respondent sent Calkins an invoice in the amount of $ 156.00 for work performed between July 5 and July 12.6 On August 15, 2017, Respondent emailed Calkins a second invoice, this time for $ 285.00 for work performed between August 3 and August 11. This invoice reflects that $ 2,059.00 remained of Calkins’s retainer.7 On September 2, 2017, Respondent emailed a third invoice reflecting work performed on August 28 and valued at $ 15.00. This invoice showed that $ 2,044.00 remained of Calkins’s retainer.8

Throughout the rest of 2017, Calkins and Respondent did not communicate, as there were no pending issues in Calkins’s matter. In early March 2018, however, Calkins attempted to contact Respondent. He did not respond. On March 7, 2018, Calkins terminated the attorney-client relationship by email and requested an accounting and a refund of the money left in her retainer. Respondent did not respond to Calkins’s subsequent lawyer’s attempts to contact him in order to execute a substitution of counsel.

Respondent did not perform work or earn any additional fees for work on Calkins’s case after August 28, 2017. Because Respondent did not earn $ 2,044.00 of Calkins’s retainer, he knew that this amount remained as Calkins’s property. Yet he failed to retain any portion of this unearned retainer.

At the end of March 2018, the balance in the Walls Law LLC COLTAF account dropped to $ 41.30. Because that balance was far less than the $ 2,044.00 that he should have held as Calkins’s unearned retainer, Respondent converted funds that belonged to her by using her funds for his own purposes.

Through this misconduct, Respondent violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c), which provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; Colo. RPC 1.16(d), which provides that a lawyer must take steps upon termination to protect a client’s interests, including by giving reasonable notice to the client and refunding unearned fees; and Colo. RPC 1.15A(b), which provides that a lawyer who receives funds or property of a client must promptly deliver to the client any funds or property that the client is entitled to receive and, on request, provide an accounting as to that property.

Tuck Matter

In summer 2017, Jessica Tuck...

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