LANDRY, STEPHEN C.
97-DB-037 & 97-DB-080 (11/02/1998) Disbarment

LOUISIANA ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD

NUMBER  97-DB-037 c/w 97-DB-080

IN RE: STEPHEN C. LANDRY

RECOMMENDATION TO THE LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT

This is a disciplinary proceeding based on the filing of formal charges by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel against Stephen C. Landry of Slidell, Louisiana.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

An initial set of formal charges of formal charges were instituted against Stephen C. Landry on May 23, 1997 alleging two counts of misconduct.  Respondent failed to answer the formal charges and those factual allegations were deemed admitted on November 4, 1997.

Before a hearing could be held on the initial charges, a second set of formal charges were filed against Respondent on November 24, 1997 alleging two counts of misconduct.  Again, Respondent failed to answer the formal charges and those factual allegations were deemed admitted on April 7, 1998.  At no time has Respondent filed a motion to recall either of the formal charges or submitted any evidence as to the issue of sanctions.

The formal charges in 97-DB-037 were submitted to Hearing Committee No. 14, chaired by Donald Zuber, which recommended that respondent be disbarred from the practice of law in its report of April 22, 1998.  The formal charges in 97-DB-080 were submitted to Hearing Committee No. 25, consisting of Christopher H. Riviere, Chairman, Joan Vogel, Public Member, and David S. Rubin, Lawyer Member, which also recommended disbarment as the appropriate sanction. 

These two cases were consolidated at the Board level and considered by a panel of the Disciplinary Board on August 20, 1998.  Respondent neither attended oral argument nor filed a brief objecting to the Hearing Committee reports sent to him by the Board Administrator.

FORMAL CHARGES

The formal charges in 97-DB-037 consist of two counts.  Count I alleges that Respondent was retained to represent John Michel in a criminal matter for $600.  After the initial consultation, Respondent failed to communicate, take any action to represent Michel, failed to account for the fee and refused to return any unearned fee.  Respondent also failed to reply to the complaint.  It is alleged that his conduct violates Rules 1.1(a); 1.3; 1.4(a); 1.5(a) & (c); 8.1(a), (c), (g); and 8.4(a).

Count II alleges that during his deposition, Respondent acknowledged that he practiced law while MCLE ineligible.  He promised to immediately correct these deficiencies, which he failed to do.  Respondent also admitted to problems with alcohol abuse and expressed a willingness to participate in the Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP); Respondent never contacted LAP.  It is alleged that his conduct violates Rules 1.1(b); 5.5(a); 8.4(d); and 8.4(a).

The formal charges in 97-DB-080 also consist of two counts.  Count I alleges that Respondent was retained to represent a client with a divorce and collected a fee of $450.  Thereafter, he disappeared, failed to perform the work, failed to communicate and take any action on her behalf.  In addition, Respondent did not cooperate with the investigation of the complaint against him.  It is alleged that respondent's conduct violates Rules 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 5.5, 8.1(c) and 8.4(c),(d).

Count II alleges that Respondent was found in contempt for failure to pay child support, in violation of Rule XIX '19A.

FINDINGS OF HEARING COMMITTEES

In 97-DB-037, Hearing Committee No.14 found that respondent had violated all rules with which he was charged, except for the catch-all 8.4(a) & (b), and found the following aggravating factors: dishonest or selfish motive; pattern of misconduct; multiple offenses, bad faith obstruction of disciplinary procedure; vulnerability of the victim; substantial experience in the practice of law; and indifference to restitution.  The only mitigating factor was no prior record, although the Hearing Committee noted that respondent has been held ineligible to practice on 10 occasions.  The Hearing Committee specifically found: This Committee finds that Mr. Landry has shown absolutely no concern for his rights, duties, or responsibilities as an attorney or for the damage that he has inflicted on his client or clients.  Considering that the purpose of discipline is to protect the public, it was the unanimous recommendation of the Committee that Respondent be disbarred.

In 97-DB-080, Hearing Committee No. 25 found that Respondent had violated the rules with which he was charged and also found that he had indeed engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.  It agreed with Hearing Committee No. 14:  The Respondent has indeed shown a complete indifference towards his responsibility as a practicing attorney, and his responsibility to the Bar and to the public. Accordingly, the Committee also recommended disbarment as the appropriate sanction to be imposed.

APPLICATION OF FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED IN IMPOSING SANCTIONS

Louisiana Supreme Court Rule XIX '10(C) states that in imposing a sanction after a finding of lawyer misconduct, the court or board shall consider the following factors:

(1)whether the lawyer has violated a duty owed to a client, to the public, to the legal system, or to the profession;

(2)whether the lawyer acted intentionally, knowingly, or negligently;

(3)the amount of actual or potential injury caused by the lawyer's misconduct; and

(4)the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.

The  Board concurs in the findings of the Hearing Committees that Respondent is guilty of the misconduct set forth in both sets of formal charges and the charges have been proven by clear and convincing evidence.  The Board finds that Respondent has violated duties owed to the legal system, the profession and the public, and has engaged in knowing and intentional misconduct. 

The Board finds the following A.B.A. Standards '9.22 aggravating circumstances to be present:  prior discipline; dishonest motive; pattern of misconduct; multiple offenses; bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary process; refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing; vulnerability of victim; substantial legal experience; and indifference to making restitution.

Although Hearing Committee No. 14 noted that the only mitigating factor was no prior record, Respondent has been held ineligible to practice on 10 occasions.  As such, this sole mitigating factor carries no weight in reducing the severity of the sanction.

The Board must now determine an appropriate sanction for Respondent.  In this matter,  there are two sets of formal charges; all counts have been deemed admitted.  The Hearing Committees in both cases found significant aggravating factors and no mitigating factors and both recommend disbarment; the Board finds that pursuant to Sections 4.4(1), 4.6(1), and 8.1 of the A.B.A. Standards for Imposing Lawyer Discipline, disbarment is the baseline sanction to be imposed in this case.

Respondent has demonstrated a total lack of concern for his duties, rights and responsibilities as a lawyer and for the damage he has inflicted on his clients and the legal system.  In addition, Respondent has demonstrated total indifference to his responsibilities as a  a father.  Respondent has not indicated any interest in retaining his license to practice law.  In light of this combined with the aggravating circumstances, the Disciplinary Board recommends that Respondent, Stephen C. Landry, be disbarred from the practice of law.

The Disciplinary Board further recommends that Respondent be assessed with all costs and expenses of these proceedings, with legal interest to commence running thirty days from the date of finality of the court judgment until paid.

LOUISIANA ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD

Homer Ed Barousse, Jr.

John G. Beckwith, Sr.

Donald R. Brown

E. J. Champagne

David R. Frohn

Sibal Suarez Holt

Robert E. Leake, Jr.

Joseph L. Shea, Jr.

By: ROBERT A. KUTCHER

FOR THE ADJUDICATIVE COMMITTEE

1.5(c) & 8.1(c), 8.4(g), 8.4(c), 8.4(d), Report of the Hearing Committee (97-DB-037), Report of the Hearing Committee(97-DB-080)