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Dutra v. Kentucky Bar Ass'n

Supreme Court of Kentucky

August 21, 2014

JOHN E. DUTRA, MOVANT,
v.
KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION, RESPONDENT

Released for Publication September 3, 2014.

JOHN D. MINTON JR., CHIEF JUSTICE. All sitting. All concur.

OPINION

John D. Minton Jr., Chief Justice.

Page 375

IN THE SUPREME COURT

OPINION AND ORDER

The Movant, John E. Dutra, under SCR 3.480(2), moves this Court to enter an Order resolving the pending disciplinary proceeding against him (KBA File No. 21285) by imposing a 181-day suspension, with 61 days to be served and the remainder probated for two years subject to conditions. This motion is the result of an agreement with Bar Counsel for the Kentucky Bar Association. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

Dutra was admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on October 9, 2000; his KBA member number is 88405. His bar roster address is 113 North Hamilton Street, Georgetown, Kentucky 40324.

In 2010, Dutra was hired by Sandra Southwood to represent her on multiple criminal charges, including attempted murder. While the charges were pending, an irrevocable trust agreement was drafted for Southwood. The trust was funded with a $50,000 check from a third party, and Dutra was named trustee. In 2011, Southwood was indicted for two additional counts of witness tampering.

At various times during the representation, Dutra wrote a total of over $24,000 in checks on the account, including a check for $3,000 payable to Dutra's law firm (but with a memo line stating it was for a forensic psychological evaluation), two checks totaling $2,690 payable to the forensic psychological evaluator, a check for $3,833.33 payable to the firm's escrow account, a check for $5,000 payable to cash (with a note reading " tampering indictment" ), and three checks totaling $12,200 payable to Dutra's law partner, David Higdon (one of these checks had " Atty fee" written on the memo line, and another said " Southwood-Reimbursement" ).

In November 2011, Southwood entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Some time after that, she asked Dutra for information about the trust account and copies of trust account records. Apparently, this request was prompted by Dutra's failure to deposit money into Southwood's inmate account and failure to timely pay a fee for a storage unit. Dutra did not respond to the request. In October 2012, Southwood filed a bar complaint against Dutra.

While the complaint was being investigated, on February 27, 2013, Dutra sent Southwood a letter stating he would refund $5,000 to the trust and that the balance in the trust account would be $17,915. However, on February 27, 2013, the balance in the account was $206.45. Included with the letter was a document titled " Agreement of Parties," in which Dutra stated he would transfer his trustee duties to Ed Wofford if Southwood agreed to the withdrawal and dismissal of the bar complaint. Southwood signed the agreement, but added by hand that she was not responsible for any decisions of the Office of Bar Counsel.

On March 28, 2013, Dutra provided a cashier's check for $17,465 to Wofford, who deposited the check into the trust account.

In July 2013, the Office of Bar Counsel sent a letter to Dutra asking for additional information about the bar complaint and stating that a failure to respond could result in a charge of misconduct under ...


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