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Kentucky Bar Association v. Curtis

Supreme Court of Kentucky

May 14, 2015

KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION, MOVANT
v.
BRIAN PATRICK CURTIS, RESPONDENT

Released for Publication May 27, 2015.

OPINION AND ORDER

John D. Minton, Jr., CHIEF JUDGE

Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 3.360, the Trial Commissioner recommends this Court suspend Brian Patrick Curtis[1] (Curtis) for five (5) years from the practice of law to run consecutively with all current suspensions for numerous ethical violations involving four separate Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) charges. Finding sufficient cause to do so, we accept the Trial Commissioner's recommendation to suspend Curtis from the practice of law for five (5) years; however, that suspension shall run concurrently with Curtis's ongoing suspension for failure to comply with CLE requirements and consecutively with any other current suspensions.[2]

I. BACKGROUND

Curtis's charges arise from allegations that he: agreed to perform legal services for clients or prospective clients in bankruptcy actions; accepted either full or partial

Page 768

payment of costs and fees; and subsequently failed to perform any services. Furthermore, in all cases, Curtis allegedly failed: to respond to the clients' inquiries; to return file materials; and to refund unearned portions of fees. Finally, in three of the four cases, Curtis was charged with failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness. The charges stem from the following actions.

A. KBA File No. 20917.

In KBA File No. 20917, Curtis was charged with violating the following: SCR 3.130-1.3, which states: " [a] lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client; " SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(3) and (4), which state in pertinent part, " [a] lawyer shall . . . keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter" and " promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; " SCR 3.175(1)(a) which requires an attorney to " maintain with the Director a current address at which he or she may be communicated with by mail, the said address to be known as the member's Bar Roster address, and shall upon a change of that address notify the Director within thirty (30) days of the new address; " SCR 3.130-3.4(c) which requires an attorney to not " knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal except for an open refusal based on an assertion that no valid obligation exists; " SCR 3.130-1.16(d) which states:

Upon 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, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred. The lawyer may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law[; ]

SCR 3.130-8.1(b) which states: " a lawyer in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not . . . knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority; " and SCR 3.130-8.4(c) which states: " It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to . . . engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

The preceding charges in KBA File No. 20917 stem from the following. Ms. Theresa Cook testified she paid Curtis $1,010 for costs and fees to obtain a discharge for her in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Ms. Cook understood the $1,010 was inclusive of both the filing fee and the attorney's fee. Curtis filed the petition and paid the filing fee for Ms. Cook's bankruptcy; however, he failed to file other required documents resulting in a deficiency notice. Ms. Cook notified Curtis that she was terminating his services. She called him repeatedly but received no response from Curtis. She went to his office several times, waited in the lobby, and no one told her when he would return. She testified that on one occasion she finally caught Curtis in his office as he was leaving to go to court. Ms. Cook told him she " received a letter from court saying her bankruptcy had been discharged because the proper papers had not been filed." Ms. Cook further testified that Curtis told her to leave her papers with the receptionist, and she did so. Ms. Cook then continued calling to see if Curtis had filed the papers but never received an answer. Ms. Cook obtained other counsel at an additional expense of $250 to reopen and complete her bankruptcy. Curtis did not return Ms. Cook's file nor refund any portion of the costs and fees paid.

Page 769

B. KBA File No. 20986 .


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