452 P.3d 270 (Colo.O.P.D.J. 2019), 19PDJ009, People v. Bernal
|Citation:||452 P.3d 270|
|Opinion Judge:||WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE|
|Party Name:||The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Complainant, v. Marie BERNAL, #45617, Respondent.|
|Case Date:||July 03, 2019|
|Court:||Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado|
OPINION AND DECISION IMPOSING SANCTIONS UNDER C.R.C.P. 251.19(c)
WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE
After she was suspended from the practice of law for administrative reasons, Marie Bernal ("Respondent") failed to wind down her law practice, including by failing to withdraw from matters pending before the Denver immigration court. She also refused to cooperate with disciplinary authorities investigating this case. Respondent will thus be suspended for a period of three months, with the requirement that she seek reinstatement, if at all, by petitioning to regain her license.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On January 30, 2019, Bryon M. Large, 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 mail to her registered business address.1 When the due date for Respondents answer had passed, the People sent her a letter on February 25, 2019, reminding her to answer.
On March 12, 2019, the People moved for entry of default. The Court granted the Peoples default motion on April 8, 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.
At the sanctions hearing held under C.R.C.P. 251.15(b) on June 26, 2019, Large represented the People. Respondent did not appear. During the hearing, the Peoples exhibits 1-6 were admitted into evidence. No testimony was offered.
II. ESTABLISHED FACTS AND RULE VIOLATIONS
Respondent was admitted to practice law in Colorado on February 19, 2013, under attorney registration number 45617. She is thus subject to the Courts jurisdiction in this disciplinary proceeding.3
In June 2017, Respondent was administratively suspended for failing to comply with continuing legal education requirements. On May 1, 2018, she was administratively suspended for failing to comply with lawyer
registration requirements for the 2018 calendar year.
As of May 25, 2018, Respondent was listed as the attorney of record in at least six cases pending before the Denver immigration court. She was listed as the nonprimary attorney of record— co-counseling with lawyer Miguel Velasco— in the immigration matters of Carmen Figueroa-Lopez, Alfredo Toloza-Diaz, and Omar Tellez-Hernandez. She was the primary attorney of record in the immigration matters of Sergio Antonio Venegas-Guzman, Raul May-Dzib, and Erick Castrejon-Sanchez.
Per 8 C.F.R. § 1292.1(a)(1), a licensed "attorney" may practice law before immigration tribunals. "Attorney," in turn, is defined in 8 C.F.R. § 1001.1(f), which requires an attorney to be eligible to practice law in, and be a member in good standing of, the bar of any state. Further, the attorney cannot be subject any order suspending, enjoining, restraining, disbarring, or otherwise restricting the attorney in the practice of law.4 But Respondent is administratively suspended in Colorado, so under these provisions she is not in good standing or eligible to practice law in Denver immigration court.
C.R.C.P. 251.28 requires an attorney to complete certain steps when an order is issued suspending the attorney. Those steps include winding up affairs, providing notice to clients of the suspension, surrendering client property, and notifying opposing counsel by certified mail of the suspension and the attorneys consequent inability to represent clients after the orders effective date. The rule also requires an attorney to notify every other jurisdiction in which the attorney is admitted to practice law of the order entered against the attorney, and to file an affidavit certifying compliance with the rule. C.R.C.P. 251.28(c) expressly extends these requirements to administratively suspended attorneys who are not reinstated within fourteen days of the suspension order.
Respondent failed to notify the Executive Office for Immigration Review ("EOIR") of her suspension and ineligibility to practice law.5 She failed to notify by certified mail the Chief Counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement— opposing counsel in the May-Dzib and Castrejon-Sanchez matters— of her suspension. Nor did she withdraw from either matter.6 And she did not file an affidavit with disciplinary authorities certifying her compliance with C.R.C.P. 251.28.
On June 18, 2018, the People sent a letter to Respondents registered business address, advising her of the request for investigation in this...
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