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Kentucky Bar Association v. Hopper

Supreme Court of Kentucky

March 23, 2017

KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION MOVANT
v.
BRIAN NATHAN HOPPER RESPONDENT

          OPINION AND ORDER

         Brian Nathan Hopper, Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) No. 89861, was admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on October 17, 2003, and his bar roster address is listed as 21 Sugg Street, Madisonville, KY 42431. The Board of Governors (Board) found Hopper guilty of violating SCR 3.130-1.3, -1.4(a)(4), -1.15(b), - 1.16(d), and-8.1(b) (two counts). For these violations the Board unanimously recommends Hopper be suspended from the practice of law for 181 days and pay all associated costs. For the following reasons, we adopt the Board's recommendation.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case concerns two separate KBA complaints.

         A. KBA File No. 23050

         Johnny Miller of Hopkins County Heating Air and Electrical hired Hopper to do collections work on behalf of the company. While Hopper collected some fees, he never turned them over to Miller. Miller also paid Hopper costs and fees for two cases Hopper never filed. Hopper returned the money for the costs and fees, but never turned over the money he collected on Miller's behalf. He also failed to return the files from eighteen collections cases.

         The Office of Bar Counsel sent Hopper correspondence regarding this case in December 2014 and again in February 2015. Hopper did not respond. The Inquiry Commission then issued a five-count charge, alleging violations of SCR 3.130-1.3, [1] -1.4(a)(4).[2] -1.15(b), [3] -1.16(d), [4] and -8.1(b).[5] The KBA sent the five-count charge to Hopper's bar roster address by certified mail, which was returned as unclaimed. Hopper was thereafter personally served with the complaint and filed a response. When the charge was issued, it was also mailed via certified mail and-again-returned as unclaimed. Hopper was personally served; however, he did not file an answer to the charge.

         B. KBA File No. 24147

         Old National Bank sent the Office of Bar Counsel two notices in October 2015 stating that Hopper's IOLTA account had been overdrawn. In turn, the Office of Bar Counsel sent Hopper two letters asking him to provide a written explanation of the insufficiency of funds and the means by which he corrected it. Hopper did not respond to either letter.

         The Inquiry Commission issued a complaint against Hopper requesting additional information about his IOLTA account. It advised him that a failure to respond could result in an additional charge. The complaint was sent via certified mail, but like those in the previous file, was returned. Service was made to the KBA's Executive Director under SCR 3.175(2).

         The Inquiry Commission then issued a charge against Hopper for violating SCR 3.130-8.1(b) (failing to respond to the KBA's lawful demand for information). The charge was served by certified mail, but Hopper did not answer.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Neither party filed a notice of appeal to this Court, and under SCR 3.370(9), [6] this Court adopts the recommendation of the Board of Governors and finds Hopper guilty of all six charged counts and suspends him for a period of 181 days. We agree that Hopper's conduct amounted to the charged counts. Specifically, Hopper violated: SCR 3.130-L3 when he failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness by failing to file cases for which Miller had paid him; SCR 3.130-1.4(a)(4) when he failed to promptly return Miller's phone calls or respond to attempts to contact him in person; SCR 3.130-1.15(b) by failing to promptly deliver the funds he obtained from Miller's collections; SCR 3.130-1.16(d) by failing to return eighteen of Miller's files once terminated; and, finally, SCR 3.130-8.1(b) when, in both KBA case files currently before this Court, he failed to respond to the KBA's lawful demands for information.

         We believe the recommended 181 day suspension is appropriate in this case. In addition to his other violations, Hopper has failed to turn over funds to his client and to maintain an adequate balance in his IOLTA account. "The Court is aware that a particularly severe stance is taken against financial misconduct by attorneys . . . ." Kentucky BarAss'n v. Maze,397 S.W.3d 891, 898 (Ky. 2013). Furthermore, Hopper received a private admonition in December 2015 for failing to respond to a bar complaint. Therefore, this appears to be a pattern of non-responsiveness in violation of our ethical rules. Hopper is ...


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