OPINION AND ORDER
Dennis Michael Stutsman, was admitted to the practice of law
in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on April 27, 1987.
Respondent's Kentucky Bar Association ("KBA")
Member Number is 81569 and his bar roster address is 1112
Taborlake Drive, Lexington, Kentucky 40502. On July 21, 2016,
the KBA Inquiry Commission issued a three-count disciplinary
Charge against Respondent in KBA File Number 24086. The
Charge reached the KBA Board of Governors (the
"Board") by default on February 21, 2017. The Board
found Respondent guilty of committing all three disciplinary
infractions, and recommended a suspension from the practice
of law for a period of thirty (30) days, in addition to other
conditions. The case now stands submitted to this Court for
adoption of the Board's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of
Law, and Recommendation.
underlying facts of this disciplinary action occurred during
the course of Respondent's representation of Chelsey
Wilson. After Ms. Wilson's application for Social
Security disability was denied, Respondent was hired to
appeal the denial. Accordingly, on March 20, 2015, Respondent
filed a timely appeal in the United States District Court for
the Eastern District of Kentucky. The federal judge entered
an order on July 20, 2015, requiring the parties to file
appellate briefs within sixty days. Respondent failed to file
the appellate brief on Ms. Wilson's behalf. Subsequently,
the presiding judge became aware that Respondent had failed
to file an appellate brief in another Social Security case on
appeal before a different federal judge. Consequently, the
presiding judge issued an order banning Respondent from
filing any new cases in federal - court for a period of one
year. The matter was referred to the KBA Office of Bar
Counsel for disciplinary proceedings.
February 9, 2016, the Inquiry Commission filed a Complaint
against Respondent.. A Fayette County Sherriff served
Respondent with the Complaint on March 18, 2016. Included
with the bar complaint was a request for additional
information and a warning that failure to respond could
result in an additional charge of misconduct. Respondent,
however, failed to respond to the Complaint. As a result, on
July 21, 2016, the KBA Inquiry Commission filed a three-count
Charge against Respondent alleging the following violations
of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct: Count I,
Supreme Court Rule ("SCR") 3.130-1.3 (failure to
act with reasonable diligence and promptness); v
Count II, SCR 3.130-3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying an
obligation under the rules of a tribunal); and Count III, SCR
3.130-8.1(b) (failure to respond to a lawful demand for
information from an admissions or disciplinary authority).
August 12, 2016, Respondent was served with the Charge via
certified mail. Respondent did hot file an answer to the
Charge and the case proceeded to the Board by default. By a
unanimous vote, Respondent was found guilty of committing all
three disciplinary infractions. The Board has determined that
the appropriate punishment is to suspend Respondent from the
practice of law for thirty (30) days, order him to complete
the Ethics and Professionalism Enhancement Program
("EPEP*), and refer him to the Kentucky Lawyer
Respondent, nor the Office of Bar Counsel has requested that
this Court take review of the Board's decision pursuant
to SCR 3.370(7). This Court also declines the opportunity to
independently review the Board's decision per SCR
3.370(8). The Board's findings are adequately supported
by the record and its recommended period of suspension is a
suitable punishment. See Kentucky Bar Ass'n v.
Justice, 198 S.W.3d 583 (Ky. 2006) (thirty-day
suspension was appropriate for attorney who failed to file
responsive pleadings resulting in the dismissal of
client's case); see also Kentucky Bar Ass'n v.
Pridemore, 436 S.W.3d 526 (Ky. 2014) (imposing a
thirty-day suspension, probated for two years, on an attorney
with no disciplinary history, who failed to file a timely
appeal); Kentucky Bar Ass'n v. Leadingham, 269
S.W.3d 419 (Ky. 2008) (failure to file appellate briefs
warranted a thirty-day suspension from the practice of law,
probated on the completion of EPEP).
Court finds additional support for the Board's imposition
of suspension based on Respondent's disciplinary history.
On September 4, 2002, Respondent was privately admonished for
similar misconduct when he failed to timely file an appellate
brief. In that disciplinary proceeding, Respondent was also
found guilty for lack of diligence and failure to keep his
client reasonably informed.
February 23, 2016, this Court imposed further discipline upon
Respondent in Stutsman v. Kentucky Bar Ass'n,
184 S.W.3d 560 (Ky. 2006). The disciplinary action was based
on a contempt order issued by the Kentucky Court of Appeals
for Respondent's failure to timely file a brief in three
separate cases. Id. The Court of Appeals also
referenced six other cases in which Respondent disregarded
deadlines and failed to file responses to show cause orders.
Id. This Court issued a public reprimand for
Respondent's failure to diligently represent his clients
and expedite their cases, and for disobediently ignoring the
Court of Appeals' orders. Id. at 561.
reviewed the record, analogous case law, and Respondent's
disciplinary history, we hereby adopt the Board's
Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation
pursuant to SCR 3.370(9).
IT IS ORDERED THAT:
1. Respondent, Dennis Michael Stutsman, KBA Member Number
81569, is found guilty of violating SCR 3.130-1.3, SCR
3.130-3.4(c), and 3.130-8.i(b);
2. Respondent is suspended from the practice of law in the
Commonwealth of Kentucky for a period of thirty (30) days;
3. Respondent may not be reinstated to the practice of law
until he completes the Ethics and Professionalism ...