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Bar Counsel Report: March 2012

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bar counsel report
March 2012
In re: Philip Singer Bar No.: 7914 Docket No.: 57548 Filed: December 21, 2011 ORDER APPROVING REVISED CONDITIONAL GUILTY PLEA AGREEMENT
Disbarment warranted following misappropriation, failure to communicate with clients, and lack of competence, diligence and candor. This is an automatic review of a Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board hearing panel’s recommendation that we approve attorney Philip Singer’s conditional guilty plea in exchange for a stated form of discipline.1 See SCR 113(1), (3). Under the revised agreement, Singer pleaded guilty to 14 counts against him and admitted to 59 SCR and RPC violations, including misappropriation, failure to communicate with clients and lack of competence, diligence and candor. In exchange, the state bar agreed to dismiss two additional counts against Singer. The agreed-upon discipline provides that: 1. 2. Singer be disbarred for at least five years from the date of his initial November 24, 2008 suspension; Singer’s reinstatement is conditioned upon Singer proving successful completion and/or passage of: a. the bar examination, b. the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, and c. 15 hours of continuing legal education in the areas of ethics, professional conduct, and/or law office management; Should Singer work in the legal community during the time of his disbarment, he must notify the state bar of his employment status; Singer shall pay restitution totaling $67,334.42 to eight specified individuals/entities; Singer shall submit to binding arbitration with the State Bar Fee Dispute Arbitration Committee on matters totaling $32,200; and Singer shall pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.2
RESIGNATIONS (VOLUNTARY, NO DISCIPLINE PENDING) S.C.R. 98(5)(a) states: Any member of the state bar who is not actively engaged in the practice of law in this state, upon written application on a form approved by the state bar, may resign from membership in the state bar if the member: (1) has no discipline, fee dispute arbitration, or clients’ security fund matters pending and (2) is current on all membership fee payments and other financial commitments relating to the member’s practice of law in Nevada. Such resignation shall become effective when filed with the state bar, accepted by the board of governors, and approved by the Supreme Court. The following members resigned pursuant to this Rule: Lennie Noordhoorn Gee Bar No. 5962 Case No. 59865 Brian S. Cochran Bar No. 5606 Case No. 59460 Holly Gordon Bar No. 5335 Case No. 59170 William A. Hehn Bar No. 1538 Case No. 59864 Filed 12/27/11 Filed 12/27/11 Filed 12/27/11 Filed 12/27/11
PUBLIC REPRIMAND In re: Bar No.: File No.: Filed: Jerry T. Donohue 8793 10-040-2810 January 13, 2012
3. 4. 5. 6.
Public Reprimand imposed for failure to supervise non-lawyer assistants and for entering into a business arrangement with a non-lawyer.
In late 2006, Patricia Warnock began talking with you about starting a ticket business. In January 2007, Warnock began drafting documents for Ticket King, LLC. Warnock drafted the Articles of Organization, Operating Agreement and licensing documents for your signature. The documents were signed by you and Warnock making you 50/50 partners in Ticket King. You and Warnock opened a bank account at Wells Fargo Bank for Ticket King, depositing $1,500 into the account and were both signatories on the account. Warnock scheduled tickets for the appropriate courts either via fax adjudication or court sessions with minimal or no input from you. The day to day client contact was done through Warnock. Clients only met with you if they had to appear at a hearing with you or for a warrant if it was a DUI or potential DUI. You instructed Warnock to handle all aspects of the ticket process from start to finish except when you were required to appear for a hearing. You and Warnock put together a commercial and began an advertising campaign including television, newspaper and telephone book advertisement. Warnock signed
Having reviewed the record, we approve the revised conditional plea agreement, with one exception. Based on the egregiousness and frequency of Singer’s misconduct, we disbar Singer from the practice of law for a period of at least five years from this date forward, rather than from his November 24, 2008, suspension. See Matter of Discipline of Droz, 123 Nev. 163, 168, 160 P.3d 881, 884-85 (2007) (“[T]hough persuasive, the [panel’s] findings and recommendations are not binding on this court. This court must review the record de novo and exercise its independent judgment to determine whether and what type of discipline is warranted.” (second alteration in original) (quoting In re Stuhff, 108 Nev. 629, 633, 837 P.2d 853, 855 (1992))). Singer shall comply with all of the other conditions in the agreement. It is so ordered.
Nevada Lawyer March 2012
bar counsel report
March 2012 all contracts and opened a merchant processing account so Ticket King could process credit card payments. In the beginning of 2008, Ticket King hired an employee who answered the telephones and instructed clients on whether or not Ticket King could assist them. Warnock and the new employee would either intake clients over the phone or in person. Warnock supervised the employee 4-5 hours per day 4-5 days per week. In your response to the state bar, you explained that you did not view Ticket King as a law firm because it was a separate limited liability company to simply process traffic tickets and related matters. You and Warnock were supposed to apportion the profits in the form of a modest salary and toward an advertising budget, once realized. You were both supposed to work without pay until the business became solvent enough to pay said salaries, with you providing the legal work and Warnock and other employees administratively processing the citations. In January 2010, Ticket King LLC, dissolved and closed its doors. On January 26, 2010, you filed an application for a new business license for Ticket King currently located at 1117 Desert Lane. In mitigation, the panel considered that you have been licensed to practice law in Nevada since April 2004, have no record of prior discipline and that there is no evidence of client harm as a result of the misconduct set forth herein. The panel further accepted your explanation that you only negligently rather than knowingly assisted in the unauthorized practice of law. In determining the appropriate sanction, the panel also relied upon your representations that you are conducting your current Ticket King business under your own practice, at your current place of business, which you solely own. You further represented that you alone decide which clients to represent and you have complete control of all client funds received in your practice. Based upon the foregoing, you violated Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 5.3 (Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants), RPC 5.4 (Professional Independence of a Lawyer), and RPC 5.5 (Unauthorized Practice of Law) and are hereby PUBLICLY REPRIMANDED. In addition, you are fined $500 and directed to pay the costs of these disciplinary proceedings.
1. ‘We previously rejected Singer’s conditional guilty plea “on grounds that the conditions imposed on Singer’s disbarment [were] inadequate to protect the public.” In re: Discipline of Philip Singer, Docket No. 53909 (Order Rejecting Conditional Guilty Plea and Remanding for Further Disciplinary Proceedings, March 17, 2010). We noted that we would be “inclined to approve” a conditional plea agreement with the following terms: “[D]isbarment under former SCR 102 and 116 for a period of at least five years, subject to the above-stated conditions, as well as additional conditions, including but not limited to the following preconditions to applying for reinstatement: (1) within twelve months preceding his petition for reinstatement, Singer must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination and provide proof of passage to bar counsel; (2) within twelve months preceding his petition for reinstatement, Singer must complete a minimum of 15 hours of continuing legal education in the areas of ethics, professional conduct and/or law office management, and provide proof of completion to bar counsel.” Id. We later clarified that Singer’s reinstatement was also conditioned on Singer passing the Nevada bar. In re: Discipline of Philip Singer, Docket No. 53909 (Order Granting Motion for Clarification, May 18, 2010). 2. The panel agreed that Singer would be subject to the disciplinary rules in effect at the time the first complaint was filed in April 2006, under which he would be eligible to apply for reinstatement after waiting at least three years from the effective date of disbarment. Under the current rules, disbarment is irrevocable. See In the Matter of Amendments to Procedural Rules Governing Professional Misconduct, ADKT No. 392 (Order Amending Nevada Supreme Court Rules 98-123, Amending Rules 212-213 and Adopting Rule 102.5, December 29, 2006) (amending SCR 102(1) and SCR 116, effective March 1, 2007, to make disbarment irrevocable).
Resignation with charges pending: SCR 98(5)(b) Types of possible discipline listed generally: SCR 102 Attorneys convicted of crimes: SCR 111 Conditional guilty plea agreements (discipline by consent): SCR 113 Reciprocal discipline: SCR 114 Disbarred/Suspended attorneys: SCR 115 Reinstatement: SCR 116 Disability Inactive: SCR 117 Supreme Court Rules (SCRs):
DISBARMENT – License to practice revoked. SUSPENSION – License suspended for a time certain, ineligible to practice. More than six months requires petition for reinstatement and court order. DISABILITY INACTIVE – Ineligible to practice until further order of the court. In the interim, disciplinary proceedings held in abeyance. INTERIM TEMPORARY SUSPENSION – Interim suspension based on showing of a substantial threat of serious harm to the public, in effect until further court order, usually after hearing. RESIGNATION WITH CHARGES PENDING – Ineligible to practice. Requires Bar Counsel approval. Resignation is irrevocable, with readmission only possible upon application as a new admittee. PUBLIC REPRIMAND – Misconduct found and public censure issued, including attorney’s name and the underlying facts and charges. Published in Nevada Lawyer and made available to the press. Remains eligible to practice law. LETTER OF REPRIMAND – Lowest level of discipline. Not published, but disclosed upon request under the new rules. May also include up to a $1,000 fine and restitution. Remains eligible to practice. ADMINISTRATIVE SUSPENSION – Attorneys may be administratively suspended for failure to pay bar fees (SCR 98(12)), and/or for failure to complete and report the required Continuing Legal Education hours (SCR 212). While these are not disciplinary suspensions, the attorney is ineligible to practice law until the deficiency is remedied and the procedures to transfer back to active status completed as set forth in the applicable rules.
March 2012
Nevada Lawyer

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