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In December 2020, two clients paid Douglas Gradisar $12,500 as a retainer. According to the disciplinary opinion, Gradisar took the funds for his own use even though he knew he didn’t perform legal services to earn the funds and knew his clients hadn’t authorized him to take the money. Gradisar closed his office July 2021, but didn’t notify his clients or inform them he was no longer practicing law.
In another matter, two clients paid Gradisar $10,000 in May 2021 as an advance retainer for his representation in a trial set for June 2021. On Gradisar’s motion, the court continued the trial until January 2022 and scheduled a status conference for September 2021. On July 1, 2021, Gradisar was administratively suspended from the practice of law. He didn’t notify the court or his clients of his suspension or move to withdraw from the case. Gradisar failed to appear at the status conference.
Gradisar informed his clients of his suspension more than five months after it took effect, telling them he had prepared for their trial and would petition to be reinstated before the trial date. The week before trial, the clients moved to continue the hearing, saying Gradisar didn’t notify them of his suspension until late December 2021. On the hearing date, the court denied the motion and dismissed the clients’ case with prejudice. According to the disciplinary opinion, Gradisar knew he didn’t earn the $10,000 trial fee and his clients hadn’t authorized him to take their funds for his own use, but he used the funds for his own purposes.
During his suspension, Gradisar performed legal work by sending a letter written on his office stationary to a collection company on behalf of another; attending court appearances; exchanging paperwork to finalize a client matter; preparing for a trial and paying himself for the work from the client’s retainer; and discussing potential legal work with clients.
Finally, Gradisar was arrested in April 2022 for felony criminal mischief related to domestic violence. In June 2022, he was charged with criminal mischief, a class 5 felony, in Pueblo County Court. Gradisar didn’t notify disciplinary authorities of the case, which remains pending.
In November 2022, Gradisar’s significant other sought a temporary restraining order against him related to a domestic violence complaint. The court granted a temporary civil protection order and continued the order in January 2023. A permanent protection order hearing was set for April 2023.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved Gradisar’s stipulation to discipline and disbarred him, effective July 10. Gradisar must pay $22,500 as restitution to his clients or reimburse the Attorneys’ Fund for Client Protection for any payments made to his clients.