Court Opinions: Presiding Disciplinary Judge Opinions for November 2022

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


People v. G. Keith Lewis

From at least September 2019 through October 2020, G. Keith Lewis failed to pay his child support obligation under a Maryland support order. Nor did he have a pending motion to modify the order during that time. Even so, in April 2020, Lewis falsely attested on his 2020 Colorado attorney registration statement that he was in compliance with his child support obligation.

Following a hearing on the sanctions, a hearing board suspended him for a year and one day. The suspension, effective Nov. 23, takes into account significant aggravating factors. To be reinstated to the practice of law in Colorado, Lewis must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules and is fit to practice law.

People v. James Stern 

In January 2019, James Stern agreed to represent a seller’s broker, the broker’s agent and a buyer’s agent to recover a fee commission for a failed real estate transaction, which fell through after the seller refused to agree to the sale. Stern didn’t obtain his clients’ written informed consent to the representation despite the risk his representation of one or more of his clients would be materially limited by his responsibilities to the other clients or by his own personal interests. 

Stern filed a complaint against the seller in July 2019, and the seller filed counterclaims against the seller’s broker and the broker’s agent. After the broker’s agent retained separate counsel to defend against the counterclaims, Stern ceased advocating for her interests regarding the fee commission, effectively abandoning his representation of her. But Stern never notified the broker’s agent that he was withdrawing as her counsel and would no longer represent her in the fee commission matter. 

Meanwhile, Stern negotiated an aggregate settlement with the seller’s lawyer. Stern didn’t inform his clients of the material terms of the settlement, however, nor did he disclose to his clients the risks involved in the settlement or obtain his clients’ written informed consent to settle their claims together. During the negotiations, Stern worked to increase his portion of the settlement to be paid as attorney’s fees. Though Stern’s contingency fee agreement entitled him to a third of the gross settlement amount, Stern attempted to collect $60,000 as specially awarded attorney’s fees plus a third of the remaining portion of the settlement funds. The buyer’s agent terminated Stern’s representation soon after, and Stern continued to represent the seller’s broker against his two former clients in the dispute over his attorney’s fee that followed. 

A hearing board suspended Stern for six months. The suspension, effective Nov. 15, requires Stern to petition to reinstate his law license by proving with clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules and is fit to practice law. 

People v. Daniel Lee English

From 2018 through 2020, Daniel English commingled his personal property with clients’ property by keeping his earned fees, unearned client funds and settlement funds in his trust account. He also transferred his personal funds into his trust account and used that account as an operating account. English also didn’t maintain the required financial records during that time.

In 2018, English represented a client in a personal injury case. English settled the matter and accepted a $40,000 settlement check on his client’s behalf. English should have held in trust $9,885 from the settlement funds to pay his client’s related medical lien but instead nearly depleted his trust account without paying the lien. During the representation, English loaned his client $7,000 in various portions but didn’t provide his client with written terms for the loans or obtain his client’s written consent to the terms of the transactions.

English recouped the money he loaned to his client from the settlement proceeds. In 2019, English destroyed his client’s file. During the disciplinary proceeding, English didn’t provide disciplinary authorities with financial records that he was required to keep, including a written statement setting forth the basis or rate for the fee he charged his client.

A hearing board suspended English for 18 months, effective May 9. On Oct. 28, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the order without opinion. To be reinstated to the practice of law in Colorado, English must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules and is fit to practice law.

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