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Wibbels v. Kentucky Bar Association

Supreme Court of Kentucky

September 28, 2017

JOSEPH DELANO WIBBELS, JR. MOVANT
v.
KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION RESPONDENT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN D.MINTON, JR., CHIEF JUSTICE

         Joseph Delano Wibbels, Jr., [1] moves this court for suspension from the practice of law under Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 3.480(2). The parties have agreed to a negotiated sanction to resolve this disciplinary action. An agreement between the parties sets forth a suspension from the practice of law for 181 days, with 30 days to serve, and the remainder probated for a period of 5 years, subject to the conditions set forth below, with Wibbels paying all costs.

         I. KBA INFRACTION FILES.

         A. KBA File No. 18808.

         Gary Scott hired Wibbels on February 24, 2010, paying a $500.00 retainer for assistance with an employment matter. Wibbels ended up writing a single letter on behalf of Scott. It is undisputed that Scott had significant trouble reaching Wibbels, including missing an appointment that had been scheduled, for which Scott traveled from Owensboro to Louisville to attend.

         Wibbels sent an e-mail to Scott explaining he had missed the meeting because of health issues and offered to return Scott's documents. Scott requested that Wibbels return all of the case files and a refund of the $500.00 payment. Wibbels did not return the money.

         Wibbels initially told Office of Bar Counsel (OBC) that the $500.00 was a flat fee to write the single letter and that he had a non-refundable fee agreement to corroborate this. He failed to provide any evidence of this letter and later re-characterized the fee as a flat fee and offered to create a time log, which he failed to do. Wibbels was served with a Bar Complaint and a reminder letter; he failed to respond to the Complaint.

         The Inquiry Commission charged Wibbels with violating SCR 3.130(1.3) (lack of diligence), (1.4)(a)(3) (failure to keep client reasonably informed), (1.4)(a)(4) (failure to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information), (1.16)(d) (failure to return client's documents and refund any unearned fee on termination of representation), and (8.1)(b) (failure to respond to lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority). Wibbels concedes he failed to comply with these rules.

         B. KBA File No. 18813

         Tiffanie Hunter hired Wibbels on or about February 1, 2010, with regard to a complaint against her employer. Hunter paid Wibbels $100.00 to write a letter to her employer, which was to go out within a week, with a copy sent to her. Hunter never received a copy of the letter.

         Hunter then hired Wibbels to appear for her at an unemployment hearing. Wibbels accepted the case and said it would be a total $500.00, applying her previous $100.00 payment to the total. Wibbels failed to submit a representation letter on Hunter's behalf and further failed to return her file and unearned fee. Wibbels failed to provide the OBC any documents in response to allegations of the Complaint. As further conceded by Wibbels, he failed to respond to the Bar Complaint levied against him.

         The Inquiry Commission issued a 4-count Charge, asserting violations of SCR 3.130(1.2) (scope of representation); (1.3) (lack of diligence), (1.16)(d) (failure to return a client's documents and refund unearned fee on termination of representation), and (8. l)(b) (failure to respond to lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority). Wibbels concedes he failed to comply with these rules.

         C. KBA FUe No. 19052

         On or about January 16, 2010, Stacey Russell sought Wibbels's assistance in an employment matter. Wibbels informed Russell that he would reach out to her if he needed further information, and took no further action on the case. Russell left her name at Wibbels's office while he was out sick in the hospital, and he never returned her call. Wibbels admits he never spoke ...


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