Court Opinions: Presiding Disciplinary Judge Opinions for June 2021

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

People v. Menges

In August 2020, Peter Menges was subject to a criminal protection order prohibiting him from contact with a former girlfriend. Both parties made efforts to modify the protection order to allow contact, but the order had not yet been modified. 

That month, Menges’s former girlfriend entered his house intoxicated, unannounced and uninvited. Menges told her that she had to leave, but she threatened to tell the police that he hit her, which she had done in the past. During the interaction, Menges spoke on the telephone with one of his friends. The friend heard Menges’s former girlfriend yelling in the background and, concerned for Menges’s safety, called the police. When the police arrived, the parties were amicable but Menges was charged with violation of a protection order. In October 2020, Menges pled guilty to the petty offense of disorderly conduct. The plea involved no conditions of probation but Menges didn’t report his conviction to disciplinary authorities, even though he was required to do so. 

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved Menges’ conditional admission of misconduct and publicly censured Menges, effective June 18. 

People v. Layton

Angelique Layton committed misconduct in four separate matters. In one domestic relations matter, she acted incompetently by failing to timely petition for review of a magistrate’s order. Layton also threatened opposing counsel with a disciplinary complaint to gain an advantage in the litigation. In another case, Layton failed to exercise basic competence when she ignored rules of civil procedure and rules governing the discovery process. In a third client matter, Layton acted incompetently by failing to follow rules of procedure, by failing to inquire who had authority to speak for and make decisions on behalf of her client, and by failing to conduct a basic investigation into the factual and legal basis for a complaint that she brought on her client’s behalf. In that same matter, she took direction from a third party while neglecting to consult with her client; failed to provide her client with a fee agreement or any kind of writing describing her fee; impermissibly revealed information related to her representation of the client; filed a frivolous and groundless lawsuit; failed to make efforts to comply with legally proper discovery requests; and prejudiced the administration of justice. Finally, in her disciplinary proceeding, Layton falsified an expert rebuttal report by knowingly misrepresenting that her expert-authored and signed the report, even though the expert never wrote, reviewed or signed the report. 

A hearing board suspended Layton for three years. To be reinstated to the practice of law in Colorado, Layton must prove by clear and convincing evidence that she has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules and is fit to practice law. The suspension took effect June 18. 

People v. Burton 

This reciprocal discipline case arose out of discipline imposed upon John Burton in Arizona. On March 11, 2020, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge for the State Bar of Arizona issued an order suspending Burton from the practice of law for six months and one day. The sanction was premised on Burton’s misconduct in two client matters. In the first matter, a client hired Burton to prepare, file and prosecute two trademark applications before the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office. Burton accepted payment from the client for legal work and for the application fees, but Burton failed to place the application fees in a trust account, and he never submitted the applications or applied the fees on behalf of his client. Burton also failed to respond to his client’s communications and to update his client about the applications. In another matter, a client retained Burton to review a technology licensing agreement and to provide an opinion letter. Despite accepting payment for the services, Burton never provided his client with the opinion letter and failed to respond to his client’s communications. 

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge entered default and imposed reciprocal discipline, suspending Burton from the practice of law in Colorado for six months and one day, with the requirement that he must petition for reinstatement if he wishes to be reinstated in Colorado. Burton’s suspension took effect on June 10. 

People v. Becnel

Following an appearance by the parties under C.R.C.P. 251.29(j), the Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation and reinstated Daniel Elmore Becnel III to the practice of law, effective June 3. The parties agreed that Becnel has been rehabilitated, has complied with disciplinary orders and rules and is fit to practice law. No opinion was issued. 

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