Court Opinions: Disciplinary Opinions for Aug. 30, Sept. 1, Sept. 5-6

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

People v. Michael R. O’Connell

According to a disciplinary opinion, beginning in 2020, Michael O’Connell represented a client in two probate cases initiated on behalf of his client’s two minor grandchildren. 

In May 2020, the presiding court appointed O’Connell’s client as conservator in each case. As conservator, O’Connell’s client was to safeguard the children’s share of settlement proceeds from a personal injury case O’Connell had litigated for the children. 

In September 2020, O’Connell delivered checks to his client for each child’s share of the proceeds. Through an oversight, $95 of the funds remained in O’Connell’s trust account until June 2023. Though O’Connell’s client was to deposit the checks into restricted accounts for the children — and the bank signed forms acknowledging the funds couldn’t be withdrawn without a court order— the accounts weren’t actually restricted, the opinion said. 

During the representation, the opinion noted O’Connell failed to file a proposed order when he petitioned the court to approve the settlement in one of the probate cases despite the court’s order that he do so; failed to file a similar petition in the other case; didn’t ensure that his client filed bank statements for the children’s accounts, even though he informed the court his client would do so; and didn’t ensure that his client complied with repeated court orders to acknowledge in writing the client’s responsibilities as conservator in the cases. 

O’Connell eventually filed the acknowledgment in one of the matters, but never filed it in the other case, the opinion noted. Furthermore, O’Connell never moved to withdraw from the probate cases, yet failed to appear at two hearings for which his client was ordered to appear. The court sent the orders to appear to O’Connell, who mailed the orders to his client. Because his client also failed to appear at the hearings, the court suspended the client’s letters of conservatorship. 

In February 2022, the court ordered O’Connell and his client to appear and show cause for failing to comply with orders. O’Connell’s client revealed spending portions of the funds on personal use at that hearing, according to the opinion. In August 2023, O’Connell paid $7,500 to each child, providing the payments to the new conservator.

According to the opinion, through this conduct, O’Connell violated Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 1.3, CRPC 1.15A(b) and CRPC 8.4(d). 

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended O’Connell for 90 days, all to be stayed upon a two-year period of probation with conditions. The probation took effect Aug. 30. 

People v. Anne Marissa Parker

According to a disciplinary opinion, in September 2019, Anne Parker filed a petition on her client’s behalf for postconviction relief under Colorado Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(c). In February 2020, the presiding court granted a hearing on the petition and ordered Parker to set a hearing. Parker never set the hearing. 

Beginning in March 2020, Parker experienced considerable personal and emotional challenges that persisted for almost two years. Parker’s final communication with her client occurred during that time in March 2020. From then until August 2020, Parker failed to respond to her client’s emails seeking an update on his case. That September, Parker’s client sent the court a letter describing his unsuccessful attempts to contact Parker through emails, letters and phone calls. In the letter, the client informed the court he wanted a hearing on his petition but he needed to contact Parker or find another lawyer to represent him. Parker’s client sent Parker a certified copy of the letter and he sent her a certified copy of a similar letter in January 2021. Parker didn’t respond to either missive. 

In August 2021, Parker and her client failed to appear at a status conference in the case. Following the status conference, the court’s clerk emailed Parker asking if there would be a hearing. Though Parker received the clerk’s email, she didn’t respond, and she didn’t notify her client about the email, the opinion explained. In October 2021, Parker and her client failed to appear at a hearing in the matter. As reflected in the minute order from the hearing, the court found Parker’s client had abandoned his motion. 

Parker never withdrew from her representation in her client’s case.  

The opinion said through this conduct, Parker violated CRPC 1.3; CRPC 1.4(a)(2); CRPC  1.4(a)(3); CRPC 1.4(a)(4); CRPC 1.16(d); and CRPC 3.4(c).

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended Parker for 30 days, all to be stayed upon an 18-month period of probation with conditions. The sanction takes into account substantial mitigating factors. The probation took effect Sept. 1. 

People v. Douglas Leo Romero

Following a disciplinary hearing, a hearing board disbarred Douglas Romero. The disbarment took effect Sept. 5.

According to a disciplinary opinion, in 2018, Romero charged an immigration client $3,500  to obtain a U visa, even though Romero knew that the client was likely ineligible for a U visa. During the 19 months that followed, neither Romero nor his firm performed any work of value on the client’s matter, the opinion explained.

In 2019, the client terminated the representation and demanded a refund of her fee, but Romero attempted to settle the matter by mailing the client a check for $500 and keeping $3,000 of the client’s money, the opinion noted. Later, Romero informed disciplinary authorities on four separate occasions that a lawyer at his firm spent over 50 hours on the client’s case. 

The opinion said Romero’s firm kept no contemporaneous records showing what work it had performed for the client; moreover, the firm’s case file contained only two brief memoranda and an invoice, prepared after the representation ended, purporting to show Romero’s staff worked just 21.6 hours on the client’s case.

In another matter, while Romero was suspended from practicing law, he advised his firm’s client she needed a prenuptial agreement and drafted the agreement for the client without the supervision of a licensed lawyer, the opinion explained. 

Romero also failed to timely pay the costs he was ordered to pay in a prior disciplinary case until months after the deadline elapsed, despite knowing of the order and the deadline it imposed on him, the opinion said.

Through this conduct, Romero violated CRPC 1.5(a); CRPC 1.16(d); CRPC 3.4(c); CRPC 5.5(a)(2); CRPC 8.1(a); and CRPC 8.4(c).

People v. Cynthia Lowery-Graber

Beginning in 2015, Cynthia Lowery-Graber represented a client in a property title dispute but never filed the quiet title action or lis pendens necessary to pursue the matter, according to a disciplinary opinion. Even so, from 2016-2018, Lowery-Graber advised her client she had filed a complaint in the case, that she was waiting on the presiding court to issue an order and she had communicated with the court’s staff about the case’s status.

Though she never filed the complaint, Lowery-Graber told her client and the vendor managing the property the court had taken no action on the case and she would need to refile the complaint with a different judge. Later, she told the vendor the court had dismissed the original complaint and she promised to refile it.

For most of 2019 and into January 2020, Lowery-Graber continued to misrepresent to her client and to the vendor she had filed and served a new complaint and she was waiting for the new court to act, the opinion noted. But the property had actually sold to another party in 2019. 

The vendor learned of the sale in February 2020 and informed Lowery-Graber’s client. For about one year thereafter, Lowery-Graber provided her client and the vendor with updates and stated she was investigating the situation. In April 2021, Lowery-Graber left her law firm without informing anyone there she had not filed the original quiet title complaint or a lis pendens.

Beginning in 2016, Lowery-Graber assisted the same client with a loan modification. In October 2016, she emailed terms for modifying the loan to the borrower’s counsel, who accepted the modified terms and twice requested Lowery-Graber formalize the arrangement, but Lowery-Graber failed to respond to the communications before Dec. 1, 2016, the date the borrower was to begin payment under the modified terms. Nor had she prepared the documents to modify the loan. 

In May 2017, after additional negotiations, Lowery-Graber failed to respond to the borrower’s counsel’s requests for updates about the matter and exchanged no further emails with the borrower’s counsel. Even so, between May 2017 and December 2017, Lowery-Graber repeatedly informed her client she was attempting to contact the borrower’s counsel. In late 2017, Lowery-Graber misrepresented to her client the borrower failed to timely accept the modification offer in 2016 and hadn’t been responsive to her attempts to communicate, the opinion explained.

Through this conduct, Lowery-Graber violated CRPC 1.3; CRPC 4.1(a); and CRPC 8.4(c). 

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended Lowery-Graber for 30 months. The suspension, which takes into account substantial mitigating circumstances, was effective Sept. 6. To be reinstated to the practice of law in Colorado, Lowery-Graber needs to prove by clear and convincing evidence she has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules and is fit to practice law.

CORRECTION NOTE: This article was updated Sept. 8 to clarify that O’Connell’s client revealed spending portions of the funds on personal use at a hearing.

Previous articleCourt Opinion: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Sept. 6
Next articleCourt Opinion: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Sept. 7


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here