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According to a Presiding Disciplinary Judge opinion, in January 2021, Cash Parker began representing a company in a case litigated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. Parker was aware the company’s general counsel expected monthly status reports concerning the litigation and litigation plan.
Right before Parker took over the case, his predecessor counsel engaged a liability expert and arranged for relevant documents to be sent to that expert. The expert anticipated receiving additional documents and that a site visit would be arranged before he prepared his report. Parker didn’t communicate further with the expert until June 21, 2021.
In June 2021, Parker secured three extensions of time from the opposing counsel to disclose expert witnesses. The extension was set to end June 21, 2021. During that period, Parker didn’t provide the expert additional documents, didn’t arrange for a site visit and didn’t communicate with the expert about the expert report. On June 21, 2021, Parker asked the expert whether he could provide a report in the next few days.
The expert said he couldn’t make a report with the limited documents he had, and, even if he had all the necessary documents, 20-30 hours were needed to prepare the report. Parker also recalled the expert referring to additional reasons Parker believed contributed to why the expert couldn’t promptly complete a report including other clients, scheduling issues and emergency investigations. That same day, without informing his client, Parker contacted a prospective liability expert who agreed to work on the matter. Parker’s client didn’t learn about the second expert for months.
On June 21, 2021, Parker asked the court to extend the expert disclosure deadline, alleging the originally retained expert said he couldn’t complete the report by the disclosure deadline due to scheduling difficulties, emergency investigations and demands in other claims. The court denied Parker’s motion, but nevertheless Parker filed expert witness disclosures June 30, 2021.
When opposing counsel moved to exclude those experts, Parker’s local counsel responded, asserting an extension was needed based on factor’s outside the company’s control. The response attached an affidavit from Parker, representing the expert couldn’t complete the report due to scheduling difficulties, other investigation and demands in other claims. The PDJ opinion noted that representation was inaccurate in that it didn’t provide a complete or accurate picture of why the company didn’t timely disclose its experts and it created the false impression the expert wasn’t diligent or was at fault for failing to manage their workload.
On Aug. 10, 2021, Parker sent the first status report to his clients since June of that year. The report didn’t mention the expert deadline was missed, that opposing counsel moved to strike the company’s experts or Parker hired a new expert. When the company’s general counsel learned of the developments, he terminated Parker’s representation and Parker’s firm wrote off more than $80,000 in attorney’s fees and expenses.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties stipulation and suspended Parker from the practice of law for 30 days, all to be stayed upon a one-year period of probation, with conditions. The sanction took into account significant mitigating considerations according to the opinion and the probation took effect May 17.