Court Opinions: Presiding Disciplinary Judge Opinions for May 19

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

People v. Joseph W. Musselman

Beginning in August 2020, Joseph Musselman represented a client in a parenting time dispute, during which Musselman repeatedly failed to respond to inquiries from his client and from opposing counsel about mediation and his client’s financial disclosures. Musselman also failed to follow court orders regarding discovery, mediation and disclosures. 

The court held Musselman and his client jointly and severally liable for opposing counsel’s fees and costs in seeking the disclosures and mediation, totaling $5,771.50. When Musselman didn’t request a hearing on the reasonableness of the fees, the court ordered Musselman and his client to pay the amount in 60 days. Neither Musselman nor his client did so and the client fired Musselman in July 2021. In February 2022, Musselman paid the full amount to opposing counsel.

In another matter, a client paid Musselman a $1,500 retainer for help with a property title issue. Musselman deposited the retainer in his trust account and eventually earned $1,620 in the matter, but he removed $225 of the retainer from his trust account before he earned it. The client later resolved the matter on her own, and in May 2021 she asked Musselman to return her retainer. 

Musselman told his client he would send her an invoice, but he never did. The client contacted Musselman often over the following seven months, and in December 2021 she sent him a letter demanding an accounting and her retainer. Musselman didn’t respond but eventually refunded the full retainer in May 2022 after speaking with disciplinary authorities.

In a third matter, Musselman represented a client who was dissatisfied with the outcome of a court’s permanent dissolution orders. Musselman told her he would move to reconsider, but he never did. Musselman then failed to comply with the court’s order to file a proposed order outlining the retirement account division between the parties, though he initially told his client he would file it. He eventually instructed his client to find someone else to file the proposed order. He then stopped communicating with his client and, without explanation, emailed the client’s file to her parents, who were paying for the representation. 

Opposing counsel moved for an order to compel Musselman to submit the proposed order, but Musselman, who had stopped checking his e-filing account, didn’t see the motion or the court’s order granting the motion, and he didn’t inform his client about the motion. Nor did he notify his client the opposing party had moved for $1,076 in attorney’s fees and costs for pursuing his compliance regarding the proposed order. Musselman also didn’t advise his client the court granted that motion. In July 2022, the court, on its own motion, removed Musselman from the case. In October 2022, Musselman paid the former opposing counsel $1,076.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved Musselman’s stipulation and suspended him from the practice of law for one year and one day, all to be stayed upon Musselman’s successful completion of a three-year conditional probation. The suspension, which takes into account significant mitigating factors, took effect May 19.

People v. Trevor H. McGarvey

On three occasions in summer 2020, Trevor McGarvey had consensual sexual encounters with a client whom he had represented in four criminal matters since August 2019. Three of the matters had been resolved in June 2020, including a driving under the influence case that resulted in probation for the client. But the fourth case was still pending when the sexual encounters occurred. McGarvey, who knew at the time of the encounters he was violating the Rules of Professional Conduct, ended the sexual relationship with his client in August 2020. 

In early 2021, the probation department in the client’s DUI case moved to revoke the client’s probation. McGarvey represented the client in the revocation matter. According to the disciplinary opinion, in texts McGarvey and his client exchanged in February 2021, McGarvey referred to the judge presiding over the case using derogatory slurs that exhibited bias or prejudice on the basis of the judge’s gender.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved McGarvey’s stipulation and suspended him from the practice of law for six months, with three months to be served and the remainder stayed upon McGarvey’s successful completion of a one-year conditional probation. The suspension takes effect June 23.

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