ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE
Suspension for a period of three months.
This is an uncontested, original proceeding in discipline filed by the office of the Disciplinary Administrator against Stephen D. Harris, an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Kansas since April 1993. Harris' last registration address with the Clerk of the Appellate Courts of Kansas is Topeka, Kansas.
The formal complaint as originally filed alleged Harris violated KRPC 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 3.4(d), 8.1(b) and 8.4(c).
On June 12, 2007, a hearing on the formal complaint was held before a hearing panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys. Respondent appeared pro se. There were no other appearances. At the outset of the hearing, Respondent stipulated to the facts and rule violations alleged in the formal complaint.
Based upon its findings of fact, the hearing panel concluded as a matter of law that Respondent violated six rules of professional conduct:
KRPC 1.1 (2007 Kan Ct. R. Annot. 384) (competent representation);
KRPC 1.3 (2007 Kan Ct. R. Annot. 398) (diligence and promptness);
KRPC 1.4(b) (2007 Kan Ct. R. Annot. 413) (explain matters to permit client to make informed decisions); KRPC 3.4(d) (2007 Kan Ct. R. Annot. 514) (comply with proper discovery request);
KRPC 8.1(b) (2007 Kan Ct. R. Annot. 553) (cooperate in disciplinary investigations); and
KRPC 8.4(c) (2007 Kan Ct. R. Annot. 559) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation);
and Kansas Supreme Court Rule 207(b) relating to discipline of attorneys (2007 Kan Ct. R. Annot. 288) (assist the Disciplinary Administrator in investigations). The panel recommended that Respondent be suspended for a period of 3 months from the practice of law in the State of Kansas. Respondent filed no exceptions to the panel's final hearing report.
The hearing panel made 22 separately numbered findings of fact, by clear and convincing evidence, which are reproduced in narrative form, as follows:
DA9672 -- Complaint of C.G.
Beginning September 1, 2004, pursuant to a rule change, the United States Bankruptcy Court required that all pleadings be filed electronically. In order to file electronic pleadings with the bankruptcy court, an attorney must have a login name and password.
In January 2005, Respondent attempted to file a bankruptcy case, in behalf of another client, using paper pleadings rather than electronic pleadings. The bankruptcy court sent Respondent an order and in the order advised Respondent that petitions and other pleadings must be filed electronically. The court ordered Respondent to attend the required training, pass the examination, and obtain a login name and password within 30 days. Respondent failed to obtain a login name and password within 30 days.
On March 31, 2005, Respondent attempted to file a bankruptcy case in behalf of another client. On April 11, 2005, a bankruptcy judge advised Respondent in writing that he was not permitted to file a bankruptcy case using paper pleadings and that all pleadings must be filed electronically.
In July 2005, C.G. retained Respondent to prepare and file a bankruptcy case in his behalf prior to the change in bankruptcy laws scheduled for October 2005. Respondent informed C.G. that it would take 6 to 8 weeks to file the bankruptcy. C.G. paid Respondent an advanced fee of $800. Despite the fact that Respondent knew that he did not have a login name and password to enable him to file bankruptcy cases, Respondent agreed to represent C.G.
On September 12, 2005, Respondent spoke with C.G. by telephone. At that time, C.G. informed Respondent that he needed the bankruptcy case to be filed immediately because his two vehicles had been repossessed. During the conversation, C.G. asked Respondent whether Respondent had a login name and password to enable him to file bankruptcy pleadings. Respondent informed C.G. that he had a login name and password. Later, in the same telephone conversation, Respondent informed C.G. that he did not have a login name and password but that he would get one by the end of the week. Still later in the telephone conversation, Respondent assured C.G. that he would obtain a login name and password with sufficient time to file the bankruptcy before the laws changed.
Because Respondent had not filed his bankruptcy, because Respondent did not have a login name and password, and because C.G. believed that Respondent misrepresented his ability to file the bankruptcy case, C.G. terminated Respondent's representation. C.G. requested that Respondent refund the $800 advanced fee paid to Respondent. Respondent never refunded any of the advanced fee. (Subsequently, C.G. retained new counsel, who was able to prepare and file the bankruptcy case prior to the change in the bankruptcy laws.)
On September 18, 2005, C.G. filed a complaint with the Disciplinary Administrator's office. Ardith R. Smith-Woertz was appointed to investigate C.G.'s complaint. On October 6, 2005, Ms. Smith-Woertz wrote to Respondent and requested that he call to schedule a meeting. Additionally, Ms. Smith-Woertz directed Respondent to bring his complete file with him at the time of the meeting. Thereafter, Ms. Smith-Woertz met with Respondent, but Respondent failed to bring the complete file with him. In an electronic mail message, Respondent promised to provide Ms. Smith-Woertz with a complete copy of the file.
Because Respondent failed to provide a complete copy of the file, on February 9, 2006, Ms. Smith-Woertz again wrote to Respondent. Again, thereafter, Respondent promised to provide the requested file. However, Respondent ...