Disciplinary Case Summaries, 1021 COBJ, Vol. 50, No. 9 Pg. 66

PositionVol. 50, 9 [Page 66]

50 Colo.Law. 66

Disciplinary Case Summaries

No. Vol. 50, No. 9 [Page 66]

Colorado Lawyer

October, 2021


No. 21PDJ044. People v. Abrams. 7/16/2021.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties' conditional admission of misconduct and publicly censured Robert E. Abrams (attorney registration number 37950). The public censure took effect July 16, 2021.

Beginning in June 2019, Abrams represented a client in her dissolution of marriage case. By August 2019, Abrams's client could no longer pay him. He agreed not to withdraw if his client signed an attorney's lien against her equity in the marital home. A lawyer at Abrams's firm drafted an agreement purporting to be an attorney's lien that secured all future fees, costs, interests, and late charges against the title to the home. The client signed the agreement. Abrams did not obtain his client's written and informed consent to his role in the transaction or advise her to seek independent legal counsel before entering the agreement. After filing a notice of attorney's lien with the court, Abrams recorded the agreement as an attorney's lien with the county clerk and recorder's office.

In October 2019, the court issued permanent orders in the case and divided the responsibility for Abrams's fees between his client and the other party. Under the order, the other party was to submit payment for Abrams's fees to his client rather than to him directly. Soon after, Abrams moved to withdraw except as to fee collection, notifying the court that he had recorded the attorney's lien. In February 2020, he asked the court to amend the permanent orders to allow him to collect his fees directly from the other party and to reduce the order to judgment. The court denied the motion and noted that Abrams's firm had an attorney's lien that it could enforce.

In July 2020, Abrams sought an order to reduce the attorney's lien to a judgment, asking for an amount that exceeded the fees addressed in the court's permanent orders. Abrams's client and opposing counsel objected, and the court set the matter for a hearing in October 2020. But two weeks before the hearing, Abrams's client and her ex-husband sold the marital home. The title company contacted Abrams about the recorded lien and paid his firm, even though the court had not yet ruled on his motion to reduce the lien to a judgment. Although the money paid on the lien was in dispute, Abrams did not deposit the funds from the title company into his trust account pending the court's ruling. At the hearing, Abrams's counsel told the court that the matter was resolved because the marital home had been sold and Abrams's firm had been paid in full. Relying on those representations, the court stated that the matter was concluded, in essence granting Abrams's motion without actually entering a judgment in his favor.

Through this conduct, Abrams violated Colo. RPC 1.8(a) (a lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client unless the client is advised to seek independent legal counsel and the client gives written informed consent to the transaction); Colo. RPC 1.15A(a) (a lawyer shall hold client property separate from the lawyer's own property); Colo. RPC 1.15A(c) (a lawyer shall keep separate any property in which two or more persons claim an interest until there is a resolution of the claims); and Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

No. 21PDJ043. People v. Alber. 6/29/2021.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties' conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Christopher W. Alber (attorney registration number 35505) for nine months, all to be stayed upon the successful completion of a two-year period of probation, with conditions. The probation took effect June 29, 2021.

In September 2020, while under stress from personal and family health issues, Alber submitted billing to his firm that included entries for 88.7 hours of work that he had not actually completed. The entries were "prebills" that were not sent to the firm's clients, and no clients were charged for work he had not done. The firm fired Alber after discovering the billing entries. Upon leaving the firm, he self-reported his conduct to disciplinary authorities.

Through this conduct, Alber violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

No. 20PDJ048. People v. Allen. 6/21/2021.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties' conditional admission of misconduct and suspended George M. Allen (attorney registration number 02080) for two years. The suspension was effective on August 2, 2021. To be reinstated, Allen must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law.

Beginning in 2017, Allen represented members of a family and their closely held corporation in litigation brought by another shareholder of the corporation. He did not provide his clients with a written fee agreement when he started the representation. During the litigation, Allen's clients developed conflicting interests, but he did not obtain their written informed consent to continue the representation. He also failed to correct a statement of material fact included in a court filing after that statement was no longer true.

Allen represented another client in multiple legal proceedings despite having a close personal relationship with her, which created a conflict of interest. Allen also provided the client financial assistance while her cases were ongoing. In one of the proceedings, the court dismissed the case and sanctioned Allen after finding that the claims he had asserted were frivolous and vexatious. A court in another proceeding disqualified Allen from representing his client because he was likely to be a necessary witness. In a third case for the client—a criminal matter—he failed to exercise reasonable diligence and promptness.

Through this conduct, Allen violated Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.5(b) (a lawyer shall inform a client in writing about the lawyer's fees and expenses within a reasonable time after being retained, if the lawyer has not regularly represented the client); Colo. RPC 1.7(a)(1) (a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation will...

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