Court Opinions: Presiding Disciplinary Judge Opinions for October 2021

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

People v. Eliana Chavez

Starting in November 2018, Eliana Chavez represented a client in a dissolution of marriage case. In February 2019, Chavez agreed to settle the case during mediation with the other party, who was unrepresented. Chavez filed a status report informing the court of the separation agreement, but she never submitted the agreement or other documents that the court had ordered the parties to file. 

In March 2019, the court dismissed the case due to noncompliance with its orders. Chavez did not check on the status of the case, however, and she believed that her assistant had sought additional time to submit the filings. As a result, she did not learn of the dismissal until later that year. Meanwhile, Chavez began drafting the separation agreement and preparing other paperwork for her client’s signature. In August 2019, Chavez obtained the other party’s signature on the separation agreement and instructed her assistant to file the agreement. She did not verify that her assistant filed the agreement, nor did she otherwise investigate the status of the case. 

Around autumn 2019, Chavez learned that the case had been dismissed and that the separation agreement had not been filed. She did not notify her client or the other party of the status of the matter. Without consulting with her client, she devised a strategy to re-open the case and file the agreement. Before she did so, however, her client consulted with another lawyer, who checked the status of the case and informed the client that the matter had been dismissed and that the separation agreement was never filed. The client fired Chavez that month.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved Chavezs’ stipulation to discipline and suspended her for six months, all to be stayed upon the successful completion of a two-year period of probation, with conditions.The probation took effect Oct. 7.

People v. Dana Marie Fragakis

Dana Fragakis violated rules regulating the Florida bar by making a false statement or with reckless disregard to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial office. She was also sanctioned for failing to comply with applicable provisions of Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct.

On Aug. 12, the Supreme Court of Florida accepted discipline by conditional guilty plea and consent judgment, suspending Dana Fragakis from the practice of law for 90 days, with conditions. 

The Colorado Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved Fragakis’ stipulation to reciprocal discipline and suspended her for 90 days, with conditions. The suspension took effect Oct. 5.

People v. Clint G. Goodman

Clint Goodman violated the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct by negligently filing fee applications and affidavit forms that were misleading and that resulted in excessive fee award. 

As a result, on May 14,  the Presiding Disciplinary Judge in the State of Arizona accepted discipline by consent and issued a final order and judgment publicly reprimanding Clint Goodman and imposing on him a one-year period of probation with conditions. 

The Colorado Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved Goodman’s stipulation to reciprocal discipline and publicly censured him with conditions. The public censure took effect Oct. 5. 

People v. Eric Morrow

Earlier this year, Eric Morrow entered into a conditional agreement with disciplinary authorities in New Mexico that he had failed to represent clients competently and diligently; failed to hold client funds separate from his own funds; failed to keep complete records of client funds he held; failed to deposit a client retainer into his trust account; failed to provide a prompt accounting and a return of client funds when requested; knowingly disobeyed a court order; and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice

On March 10, the New Mexico Supreme court suspended Morrow for no less than two years, all served. Colorado’s Presiding Disciplinary Judge entered judgment on the pleadings and imposed reciprocal discipline, suspending Morrow from the practice of law in Colorado for two years. His suspension took effect on Sept. 22.

People v. Anthony Henry Veto

In September 2020, Anthony Veto’s nonlawyer assistant consulted with a new client about filing a petition for parental responsibility of the client’s child. The client believed that Veto’s assistant was a lawyer who would take the lead on her case. She paid $3,500 as a retainer, against which Veto charged an hourly rate of $175. 

In early October 2020, Veto submitted a petition for custody and related filings in Arapahoe County Court. Around that time, the client sent Veto financial disclosures to be filed in her case. Veto’s assistant confirmed with the client that he had received the documents, but neither he nor Veto submitted them to the court. Veto then moved to dismiss the action at the end of October 2020, and the court closed the case. Even though the matter was closed, Veto’s assistant told the client in December 2020 that Veto had requested a new judge. In February 2021, Veto filed a new petition in Denver District Court after his client asked for an update. The parties’ parenting arrangement was contentious and the client repeatedly texted and emailed Veto’s assistant about temporary orders and mediation. Neither Veto nor his assistant were responsive, however, and the client did not know what was happening in her case. 

The client ultimately hired a new lawyer who took over as her counsel in May 2021. The lawyer informed her that Veto had failed to file her financial disclosures, seek temporary orders, propound discovery on the other party and file a witness list for the permanent orders hearing set for June 2021. The client requested that Veto refund her entire retainer. Veto sent the client his bill and issued a refund of $753.50.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved Veto’s stipulation to discipline and suspended him for 90 days, all to be stayed upon the successful completion of a two-year conditional probation. The probation took effect Oct. 13.

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