452 P.3d 259 (Colo.O.P.D.J. 2019), 18PDJ075, People v. Pruit

Docket Nº:18PDJ075
Citation:452 P.3d 259
Opinion Judge:WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE
Party Name:The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Complainant, v. Brett PRUIT, Pro Hac Vice #17PH5175, Respondent.
Case Date:April 25, 2019
Court:Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado
 
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452 P.3d 259 (Colo.O.P.D.J. 2019)

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Complainant,

v.

Brett PRUIT, Pro Hac Vice #17PH5175, Respondent.

No. 18PDJ075

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

April 25, 2019

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

WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE

Page 260

Brett Pruit ("Respondent"), a Texas lawyer, was subject to a pending disciplinary proceeding in Texas when he agreed to represent a Colorado client pro hac vice in a criminal matter. He fraudulently certified on his pro hac vice application that he was not subject to any disciplinary proceeding. While representing his Colorado client he was suspended in Texas, yet he continued to represent the client in violation of the Texas disciplinary order. Respondent also presented a forged Texas suspension agreement to local counsel who was sponsoring his pro hac vice status in order to conceal the effective date of his suspension. Respondent’s conduct, which violated Colo. RPC 3.4(c), 3.3(a)(1), 4.1(a), and 8.4(c), warrants disbarment.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 3, 2018, Jacob M. Vos, Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel ("the People"), filed a complaint with Presiding Disciplinary Judge William R. Lucero ("the Court"). That same day, the People sent copies of the complaint and citation by certified mail to Respondent’s registered address. Respondent failed to file an answer. By order dated February 11, 2019, the Court entered default, thereby deeming admitted the allegations and claims in the complaint.

On April 18, 2019, the Court held a sanctions hearing under C.R.C.P. 251.15(b). Vos represented the People; Respondent did not appear. During the hearing, the Court considered testimony from J. Matthew DePetro and admitted the People’s exhibits 1-6.

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 is not licensed to practice law in Colorado. He was admitted to practice law in Texas in 1983. Respondent is subject to this Court’s jurisdiction in this disciplinary proceeding through his pro hac vice admission under registration number 17PH5175.1

In March of 2015, Respondent was served with a Texas disciplinary complaint, which alleged that he had settled a 2013 case without client authority. That matter continued to proceed through the Texas disciplinary process.

In early August 2017, Respondent contacted J. Matthew DePetro, a Colorado attorney and his former high school classmate. Respondent wanted to represent client Shelia Tomasek in a misdemeanor criminal case in Douglas County, Colorado. He asked DePetro to serve as local counsel to his pro hac vice admission.

DePetro had never served as local counsel before, but he researched the requirements and agreed to serve as Respondent’s local counsel in Colorado. DePetro inquired into

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Respondent’s status with the Texas bar and learned that he was in good standing with no reported discipline. Respondent confirmed that he was in good standing in Texas.

On August 16, 2017, Respondent filed a verified motion for pro hac vice admission in Tomasek’s case. Both he and DePetro signed the motion. In the motion, Respondent represented that he was not subject to any pending disciplinary action. That statement was false, however, because at the time Respondent was subject to the pending 2015 Texas disciplinary action. On August 18, 2017, Respondent’s motion for pro hac vice admission was approved by the Colorado Supreme Court’s Office of Attorney Registration. On the same day, the Douglas County court issued a corresponding order approving Respondent’s pro hac vice admission in Tomasek’s case.

On September 6, 2017, Respondent agreed in the Texas disciplinary case to a suspension of his law license for thirty months, all but three months stayed. The served portion of the suspension was to begin on November 1, 2017, and was to end on January 31, 2018. The remaining portion of the suspension was stayed subject to a number of conditions. Respondent was also required to notify his clients, courts, and opposing counsel of his suspension. But he failed to follow those requirements. Respondent has never been reinstated from the served portion of that suspension.

On December 18, 2017, Tomasek pleaded not guilty. Respondent was present with her and signed a notice of future court appearance and a case management order. He did not, however, notify Tomasek or the Douglas County court of his Texas suspension.

On February 5, 2018, Respondent telephoned DePetro, stating that he had been injured in a car accident the previous day. DePetro agreed to appear for Respondent at a hearing in Tomasek’s case that same day. When DePetro arrived, he learned that the hearing had been vacated. DePetro telephoned Respondent, who assured him that he and Tomasek were ready for the trial set for March 6, 2018.

On March 5, 2018, DePetro was in the Douglas County courthouse for another matter when he learned that the judge in Tomaseks case was looking for him. DePetro checked the docket and saw Tomaseks name. He also learned from the clerk that Respondent had called and left a voicemail message...

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