OPINION AND ORDER
Michael Benjamin Shields, was admitted to the practice of law
in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on October 11, 2002. His
Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) number is 89434 and his bar
roster address is 26 Broadway, P.O. Box 950, Mt. Sterling,
Kentucky, 40353. Pursuant to SCR 3.480(2), he moves this
Court to enter a negotiated sanction imposing a thirty-day
suspension from the practice of law, to be probated for one
year subject to conditions. The KBA has no objection.
Lykins hired Shields to represent her in a criminal case in
which she had been indicted for first-degree wanton
endangerment and first-degree assault. In May 2015, prior to
hiring Shields, Lykins had posted a $5, 000 bond. A condition
of that bond was that she maintain contact with her attorney.
In October of that year, Shields entered his appearance on
behalf of Lykins in the case. On the same day, Lykins filed a
bond assignment to Shields of her $5, 000 bond and requested
the court deliver that amount to Shields. The next week, the
trial court released half of the full bond amount to Shields.
a jury trial was scheduled for February 5-6, 2018. Shields
met with Lykins on January 31, 2018 to discuss the trial and
a plea deal the Commonwealth offered. Shields asked Lykins to
contact him the next day (February 1) to advise him whether
she would accept the deal or proceed to trial. Though Lykins
had maintained regular contact with Shields throughout the
representation, she did not contact Shields on February 1 and
he made no attempt to reach her. In spite of making no
attempt to contact his client, Shields filed a motion to
withdraw from representing Lykins on February 2. In the
motion, he indicated Lykins had "failed to meet her
obligation in the Attorney-Client relationship, thereby
requiring the undersigned to terminate his
representation." Shields did not notify Lykins that he
filed the motion to withdraw.
of Shields's motion to withdraw, the trial court issued a
bench warrant against Lykins for failing to maintain contact
with her attorney, a condition of her bond. On February 5,
Lykins was arrested and remained in custody for more than two
months, when she was released on a surety bond. Also on
February 5, the trial court allowed Shields to withdraw from
his representation of Lykins. On February 20, the trial court
signed an agreed order between Shields and the
Commonwealth's Attorney and released the remaining $2,
500 of Lykins's bond to Shields. Shields kept the entire
$5, 000 bond.
admits he did not account for the work he performed in
Lykins's case, but estimates he earned at least $2, 800
of the $5, 000 bond. Once the disciplinary action was
initiated, Shields returned $2, 500 of the bond to Lykins.
admits his actions constituted violations of SCR
3.130(1.16)(b) and (1.16)(d). SCR 3.130(1.16)(b) concerns
when an attorney may withdraw from representing a client. It
states, in pertinent part: "a lawyer may withdraw from
representing a client if: (1) withdrawal can be accomplished
without material adverse effect on the interests of the
client ... (7) other good cause for withdrawal exists."
Shields admits he violated this rule when he improperly
withdrew from his representation of Lykins when he lacked
good cause and his withdrawal adversely affected his client.
3.130(1.16)(d) provides, in pertinent part:
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.
Shields admits that he violated this rule by failing to
notify Lykins of his intent to terminate representation,
filing his motion to withdraw three days before the start of
the scheduled jury trial in her case, and failing to refund
the unearned portions of the fee he collected.
and Shields agree that the proper discipline is a thirty-day
suspension from the practice of law, probated for one year
with conditions, as discussed below.
reviewed the facts of this case, we agree with the parties
and adopt the negotiated sanction. We agree that
Shields's conduct in this case amounted to violations of
SCR 3.130(1.16)(b) and (d). Shields's termination of his
representation of Lykins on the eve of her trial, and without
even attempting to contact her regarding the matter, resulted
in a "material adverse effect on the interests of the
client" as prohibited by SCR 3.130(1.16)(b).
Shields's assertion that he had no choice but to
terminate representation without exerting due diligence in
communicating with Lykins resulted in the withdrawal of her
bond and her having to obtain new counsel just before her
jury trial was set to begin. Furthermore, Shields's
retention of unearned funds resulted in a violation of SCR
hold that the sanction the parties negotiated in this case is
adequate and in line with our precedent. For example, in
Kentucky Bar Ass'n v. Emerson,260 S.W.3d 782
(Ky. 2008), this Court publicly reprimanded Emerson for
several violations, including SCR 3.130(1.16)(d). In that
case, Emerson accepted a $2, 500 fee from a client in a
criminal case. That fee was to be one half of the total fee.
When Emerson asked his client for a higher fee after the
judge ordered a suppression motion be filed in the case, the
client could not pay and Emerson filed a motion to withdraw