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In re Storey.

2022 CO 48. No. 21SA220. Attorney Regulation—Asset Disclosure—Attorney Fees.

October 4, 2022

While representing a client in a divorce proceeding, Storey pressed the client to sell furniture and other valuable marital property to pay her attorney fees. Storey also accepted as payment what appeared to be an IRS refund check made payable to both parties, without disclosing the check to opposing counsel or counseling her client to disclose the check. She did this without advising her client of the risks associated with selling marital property or of using the undisclosed check to pay her fees in light of the legal standards applicable in divorce matters. The Disciplinary Hearing Board (Board) found that Storey violated Colo. RPC 1.7(a)(2) (representing a client despite a significant risk that the attorney’s personal interests materially limit the attorney’s representation of the client); 1.15A(a) (failing to safeguard property of others and appropriately maintain trust accounts); 1.15A(c) (failing to keep contested property separate); 3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying an obligation set by the court); and 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation). As a sanction, Storey was suspended from practicing law in Colorado for one year and one day.

On appeal, Storey argued that she did not violate any rules of professional conduct. The Supreme Court concluded that Storey did violate Colo. RPC 1.7(a)(2), 1.15A(a) and (c), and 8.4(c), but that she did not violate Colo. RPC 3.4(c) because there was not clear and convincing evidence that she knowingly disobeyed an order of the court. Because the Board erred in finding that Storey violated Colo. RPC 3.4(c), it must reassess its sanction, giving appropriate weight to aggravating and mitigating factors and using the ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions to determine the appropriate sanction.

The matter was remanded to the Board for reconsideration of the sanction imposed.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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