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People v. Sandoval

Supreme Court of Colorado

June 17, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF COLORADO, Complainant:
v.
KEITH EMORY SANDOVAL, Respondent:

Editorial Note:

This Pagination of this case accurately reflects the pagination of the original published, though it may appears out of sequence.

Page 253

OPINION

Page 254

OPINION AND DECISION IMPOSING SANCTIONS PURSUANT TO C.R.C.P. 251.19(c)

WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE.

On May 5, 2014, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge (" the Court" ) held a sanctions hearing pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.15(b). Brooke H. Meyer appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel (" the People" ), and Keith Emory Sandoval (" Respondent" ) did not appear. The Court now issues the following " Opinion and Decision Imposing Sanctions Pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.19(c)."

I. SUMMARY

Disbarment is generally appropriate when an attorney abandons his practice, knowingly fails to perform services, and engages in a pattern of neglect with respect to client matters, causing serious injury or potential injury to clients. In this case, Respondent abandoned six clients, converted funds in five matters, and then failed to cooperate in the resulting disciplinary proceedings. The Court finds the appropriate sanction is disbarment.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 17, 2013, Respondent was suspended from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day, with sixty days served and ten months and one day stayed upon the successful completion of a two-year period of probation. Respondent's suspension was premised upon his neglect and abandonment of two client matters. The suspension took effect on June 21, 2013. Respondent never filed an affidavit of compliance with the terms of his suspension, nor did he seek reinstatement. He is thus currently suspended from the practice of law.

The People filed their complaint in this case on November 23, 2013. On that same day, the People served Respondent by certified mail at his registered business address of 2600 S. Syracuse Way, Greenwood Village, CO 80111.[1] Respondent failed to answer, and the Court granted the People's motion for default on February 3, 2014. Upon the entry of default, the Court deems all facts set forth in the complaint admitted and all rule violations established by clear and convincing evidence.[2] At the sanctions hearing held on May 5, 2014, the PDJ considered the People's exhibits 1 through 5.

III. ESTABLISHED FACTS AND RULE VIOLATIONS

Respondent took the oath of admission and was admitted to the bar of the Colorado Supreme Court on December 24, 2008, under attorney registration number 40679. He is thus subject to the Court's jurisdiction in these disciplinary proceedings.[3]

As established by the Court's order entering default, Respondent engaged in extensive misconduct in seven separate matters. Because Respondent has defaulted, the admitted facts and rule violations of each matter are presented in abbreviated form. Further details are available in the People's complaint.

Trust Account Violations

In 2012 and 2013, Respondent maintained two client trust accounts at Wells Fargo bank. In September 2012, Respondent

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entered into a one-year contract for marketing services with Bullseye Local Marketing Inc. Bullseye charged Respondent $999.00 per month for marketing services. On October 19, 2012, Respondent authorized Bullseye to automatically deduct the monthly marketing charges from one of the Wells Fargo trust accounts. From April through June 2013, Bullseye made six automatic payments from this account, which contained insufficient funds. As a result, Respondent's trust account carried a negative balance. During this same period, First National Bank of Omaha deducted four debit charges from Respondent's second Wells Fargo trust account, resulting in insufficient funds and negative account balances.

Through this conduct, Respondent violated Colo. RPC 1.15(i)(2) (all trust account withdrawals and transfers shall be made by a lawyer admitted to practice law in this state or by a person supervised by such lawyer and may be made only by authorized bank or wire transfer or by check payable to a named payee).

The Coe Matter

On April 9, 2013, Kara Coe contacted Respondent by phone about representing her daughter, Meagan Coe, in a custody matter. Coe discussed the details of the matter with Respondent, and he asked for a $1,500.00 retainer. On April 9, 2013, Respondent deducted this amount from Coe's checking account with her permission. Respondent then deposited $1500.00 into a U.S. Bank trust account. He did not provide a fee agreement to either Coe or her daughter, nor did he provide them with a written

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communication stating the basis or rate of his fee.

On April 9, 2013, Respondent met with Coe's daughter at his office, and later that evening he sent her a completed " Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities" that he created with information she had provided him. Respondent advised her to review the document and if correct, sign, notarize and return it to him. On April 25, 2013, she returned the documents to Respondent. Respondent acknowledged receipt of the documents on April 29, 2013. After this date, neither Coe nor her daughter heard from Respondent about the status of the case. They both sent Respondent numerous requests for information by phone and email, but Respondent did not respond.

On June 4, 2013, Coe learned that Respondent's license to practice law had been suspended. She sent Respondent an email on that day asking for a full refund of her retainer and about his suspension. Respondent replied to the email, stating, " [m]y license has not been suspended." At that time, Respondent had not begun serving his suspension, but his suspension was to become effective on June 21, 2013. Respondent sent Coe an email on June 6, 2013, stating, " I'll refund your entire retainer this week." Respondent never refunded the retainer, nor has he responded to Coe or her daughter's repeated attempts to communicate ...


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