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Kentucky Bar Ass'n v. Stewart

Supreme Court of Kentucky

April 2, 2015

KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION, MOVANT
v.
CHRISTOPHE G. STEWART, RESPONDENT

Released for Publication April 14, 2015.

OPINION

John D. Minton Jr., CHIEF JUSTICE.

Page 821

IN SUPREME COURT

OPINION AND ORDER

The Board of Governors of the Kentucky Bar Association (" KBA" ) recommends that this Court publically reprimand Christophe G. Stewart for violating Supreme Court Rule (" SCR" ) 3.130-1.15 (safekeeping property) and 3.130-8.1(b) (knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority). Finding a public reprimand to be the appropriate discipline for Stewart's misconduct, we grant the KBA's motion. Stewart, whose KBA member number is 67870 and whose last known bar roster address is Barrister's Hall, 1009 S. 4th Street, Louisville, Kentucky, 40203, was admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on May 1, 1978.

Stewart maintained an IOLTA escrow account with BB& T in Louisville, Kentucky. In November of 2012, BB& T notified the KBA that Stewart's escrow account was overdrawn by $544.11. The KBA sent a notice to Stewart on December 5, 2012, requesting more information concerning the overdrawn status of the account. A second notice was sent on January 28, 2013. Stewart failed to respond to both requests.

The Inquiry Commission opened an investigative file on the matter. On April 25, 2013, a letter was sent to Stewart advising him that a disciplinary investigation had been initiated concerning the status of his escrow account, and demanding a response within twenty days. The letter further advised Stewart that knowingly failing to respond to a lawful request for information from a disciplinary authority constituted a violation of SCR 3.130-8.1. Receiving no response from Stewart, the Inquiry Commission sent a second letter on July 25, 2013. He did not respond.

The Inquiry Commission issued a complaint against Stewart for the mishandling of escrow funds in possible violation of SCR 3.130-1.15[1] and for his failure to respond to the Office of Bar Counsel's request for information in possible violation of SCR 3.130-8.1(b).[2] A copy of the complaint was mailed to Stewart at the address listed on his bar registry on October 23, 2013. The letter was returned as undeliverable. A copy of the complaint was then provided to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office for service on November 27, 2013, with the request for service received on December 2, 2013. The Sheriff's Office attempted service six separate times at Stewart's bar address and spoke with

Page 822

Stewart's office associate. Unable to effect service, the Sheriff's Office filed a return indicating that Stewart was " avoiding service."

On January 23, 2014, Stewart was served with a copy of the Inquiry Commission complaint by way of service on the KBA Executive Director pursuant to SCR 3.175. The letter was forwarded to Stewart's bar address on that same day. Stewart did not respond, and the letter was returned as undelivered on March 5, 2014. The Executive Director received the unclaimed complaint on March 20, 2014.

The Inquiry Commission issued a two-count charge against Stewart on May 9, 2014. The charge alleged that Stewart violated SCR 3.130-1.15 by failing to properly maintain his escrow account with BB& T. The second count of the charge alleged that Stewart violated SCR 3.130-8.1(b) by knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority. Over the course of one month, the Disciplinary Clerk and, later, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, made eight separate attempts to serve Stewart with the Inquiry Commission's charge. Each attempt was unsuccessful. Finally, the charge was served on the Executive Director, with an accompanying copy mailed to Stewart. The letter was returned as undeliverable on August 19, 2014. Stewart failed to file an answer to the charge.

The matter came before the Board of Governors (" Board" ) as a default case pursuant to SCR 3.210[3] on September 19, 2014. The nineteen members of the Board present unanimously voted to find Stewart guilty of both counts contained in the charge. The Board considered Stewart's prior disciplinary history, mitigating factors, and the applicable law before voting on the ...


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