ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE
Original proceeding in discipline.
This is an original uncontested proceeding in discipline filed by the office of the Disciplinary Administrator against the respondent, Jeffrey T. Pittman, of Galena, Kansas, an attorney admitted to the practice of law in the state of Kansas in 2001. Respondent's license to practice law in Kansas was suspended on October 11, 2006, for failure to pay the annual attorney registration fee, fulfill the required hours of continuing legal education, pay the noncompliance fee for the compliance period, and pay the annual CLE fee. The suspension remains in effect.
A hearing was held before a panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys on June 28, 2007. The respondent did not appear.
After hearing the evidence presented at the hearing, the hearing panel concluded that the respondent violated KRPC 1.1 (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 384) (competence); KRPC 1.3 (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 398) (diligence); KRPC 1.4 (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 413) (communication); KRPC 1.15(b) (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 473) (safekeeping property); KRPC 1.16(d) (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 487) (declining or terminating representation); KRPC 3.2 (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 503) (expediting litigation); KRPC 8.1(b) (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 553) (disciplinary matters); KRPC 8.4(b) (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 559) (committing a criminal act); Supreme Court Rule 207(b) (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 288) (duty to cooperate); and Supreme Court Rule 211(b) (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 304) (requiring service of answer to complaint).
The panel unanimously recommends that the respondent be disbarred. The respondent did not file exceptions to the final hearing report.
The panel's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations for discipline are reproduced in part as follows:
"2. On February 5, 2005, [Ms. E. W.] retained the Respondent to file a post-divorce motion to change custody. During [Ms. W.]'s marriage to [Mr. W.], two children were born: [J. R. W.] and [K. M. W.] Following the divorce, the Court awarded [Mr. W.] with primary residential custody of their children. [Ms. W.] was interested in seeking and obtaining primary residential custody. [Ms. W.] paid the Respondent an [advance] fee of $750.00.
"3. [Ms. W.] believed that there was a significant change in circumstances that would warrant a change in custody. The change in circumstances included: [Mr. W.] was unable to maintain stable employment, [Mr. W.] continually moved, and their son missed a large number of days of school and was considered truant. On the other hand, [Ms. W.] was in a stable personal relationship with her boyfriend of six years, she maintained the same job for a period of three years, and she had purchased her own home. [Ms. W.] provided the Respondent with a number of personal papers and documents which supported her request for a change of custody.
"4. On April 1, 2005, the Respondent filed a motion to modify child custody, in behalf of [Ms. W.] However, the Respondent did not include the information contained in ¶ 3 above in the motion. Despite the fact that he filed the motion with the Court, the Respondent failed to take action to have the motion heard by the Court.
"5. In the meantime, [Mr. W.] persuaded the authorities to pursue a child in need of care case, alleging wrongdoing by [Ms. W.] Through the child in need of care case, [Mr. W.] sought to have [Ms. W.]'s visitation limited to supervised visitation. The Court scheduled a hearing on the child in need of care petition for July 5, 2005.
"6. Beginning in April, 2005, and continuing throughout the period of representation, [Ms. W.] was unable to contact the Respondent. She called the Respondent numerous times. The Respondent failed to return [Ms. W.'s] telephone calls. [Ms. W.] went to the Respondent's office on several occasions, hoping to make contact with the Respondent and find out about the status of the motion to change custody. However, [Ms. W.] was never able to locate the Respondent at his office. When [Ms. W.] went to the Respondent's office, she taped notes to the Respondent's door, asking him to make contact with her and provide her with a status update. The Respondent failed to call [Ms. W.] in response to the notices she left on his door.
"7. While [Ms. W.]'s motion to modify custody did not proceed, the child in need of care case did. On July 5, 2005, the Court held a hearing on the petition in the child in need of care case. During the hearing, the judge determined that there were common issues involved in the divorce proceeding. The Court contacted the Respondent by telephone and instructed him to appear in Court. When the Respondent arrived, he was agitated and he advised [Ms. W.] [to] agree to supervised visitation.
"8. Sometime following the hearing in July, 2005, [Mr. W.] moved with the children. [Mr. W.] failed to inform [Ms. W.] of their location.
"9. Because the Respondent took no action to get [Ms. W.]'s motion heard and because the Respondent would not contact [Ms. W.] regarding her case, [Ms. W.] sought new counsel. However, because [Ms. W.] is of limited means, she could not immediately retain new counsel. After obtaining $1,000.00 from her mother, [Ms. W.] retained Samuel Marsh. Mr. Marsh was able to locate [Mr. W.] in Toledo, Ohio.
"10. Mr. Marsh attempted to proceed on the motion to modify child custody. However, because the children had been living in Ohio for some time, the Court in Kansas denied the relief sought based on a lack of jurisdiction.
"11. Despite repeated requests to do so, the Respondent failed to return the personal papers and documents to [Ms. W.]
"12. On April 30, 2007, the Respondent was charged with domestic assault in the second degree, a class C felony, for choking Callie Parazine, in the Jasper County, Missouri, Circuit Court. The Court issued a warrant for the Respondent's arrest. Thereafter, on May 7, 2007, the sheriff's department arrested the Respondent. After the Respondent posted bond, the sheriff's department released the Respondent.
"13. On May 30, 2007, the Respondent appeared in court for arraignment and a public defender was appointed to represent the Respondent. The Court ordered the Respondent to appear in Court on June 13, 2007.
"14. On June 13, 2007, the Court reset the case to June 27, 2007. While the outcome of the June 27, 2007, hearing on the felony assault was unknown at the time of the hearing on the Formal Complaint, it appears that the charge remains pending against the Respondent.
"15. In 2006, the Respondent was charged with drug offenses in the District Court of Ottawa County, Oklahoma. Thereafter on June 4, 2007, the Respondent entered a plea of nolo contendere to misdemeanor drug offenses related to his possession of materials used to make methamphetamine. At that time, the Court ordered that the Respondent spend one year in jail. However, the Court suspended all but 30 days of the jail term. The Court further ordered the Respondent to report to jail to serve the 30 days on June 12, 2007.
"16. On June 12, 2007, the Respondent failed to report to the jail as ordered. Consequently, the Court issued a warrant for the Respondent's arrest. To date, ...