Released for Publication April 29, 2014.
John D. Minton Jr., CHIEF JUSTICE. Minton, C.J., Abramson, Cunningham, Keller, Noble and Venters, JJ., concur. Scott, J., not sitting.
IN SUPREME COURT
OPINION AND ORDER
John D. Minton Jr., CHIEF JUSTICE.
The Board of Governors (the Board) of the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) recommends this Court suspend Clyde F. Johnson (Johnson) from the practice of law for thirty (30) days; require Johnson's attendance to the Ethics and Professional Enhancement Program (EPEP); and refer Johnson to the Kentucky Lawyers' Assistance Program (KYLAP). Finding sufficient cause to do so, we adopt the Board's recommendations. Johnson, whose KBA number is 84172 and whose bar address is 181 East Court Street, P.O. Box 763, Prestonsburg, Kentucky 41653, was admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on October 17, 1991.
A. Procedural History and Charges
On February 13, 2013, the Inquiry Commission issued a complaint and subsequently issued charges accusing Johnson of violating SCR 3.130-1.3(c) -- which states, " [a] lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client; " SCR 3.130-1.4(a) -- which states in pertinent part, " [a] lawyer shall (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; [and] (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; " and SCR 3.130-1.16(d) -- which states in pertinent part, " [u]pon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client . . . and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred."
These charges arose from actions Johnson took while representing Mike and Debby Goodman (the Goodmans) in an action to enforce a tax lien on real property. After Mr. Goodman met with Johnson on May 7, 2010, for a free consultation, Mr. Goodman paid Johnson $500.00, an amount which Johnson estimated as fees and costs for the case. For more than two years following the initial consultation, Mr. Goodman attempted to contact Johnson many times about the pendency of their matter. Having not spoken to Johnson since May 7, 2010, on August 13, 2012, Mr. Goodman sent Johnson a letter via certified mail demanding the return of the $500.00, but the letter was returned unclaimed.
On October 10, 2012, the Goodmans filed a bar complaint against Johnson. On November 19, 2012, Johnson responded to the complaint by stating he admitted the allegations of the complaint in essence, and that he had failed to vigorously pursue the Goodmans' case. Johnson also outlined remedial measures to ensure a similar problem would not occur again. Johnson then returned the $500.00 to Mr. Goodman in December 2012. On February 13, 2013, the Inquiry Commission issued the aforementioned complaint with three (3) charges. Count I of the charge alleges Johnson violated SCR 3.130-1.3(c) by failing
to diligently pursue or file the Goodmans' case. Count II of the charge alleges Johnson violated SCR 3.130-1.4(a) by not communicating with the Goodmans about the status of their case, by not returning their phone calls, and by not responding to their letters requesting information. Count III of the charge alleges Johnson violated SCR 3.130-1.16(d) by abandoning the Goodmans' case and not refunding the unearned fee until a subsequent bar complaint was filed against him.
On March 11, 2013, Johnson filed an answer to the charges in which he admitted the veracity of every statement of the charge. Additionally, Johnson accepted responsibility for his actions, and stated he was willing to accept discipline as deemed appropriate. On July 10, 2013, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Johnson disappeared on or about June 24, 2013. Johnson remains missing. ...