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People v. Buckley.

No. 23PDJ009. 9/26/2023. Opinion Imposing Sanctions.

December 4, 2023

Following a sanctions hearing, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge disbarred John Lawrence Buckley (attorney registration number 36639). The disbarment took effect on September 26, 2023.

In 2021, Buckley represented a client charged with driving under the influence. The client paid Buckley a $4,000 flat fee in May 2021. The flat-fee agreement included benchmarks for preparing for and representing the client at preliminary hearings and for work performed up to and including sentencing or the case’s dismissal. Throughout the case, Buckley failed to respond to the client’s reasonable requests for information. He also did not adequately consult with his client about the criminal matter, including the possibility and advisability of entering a guilty plea and participating in a multiple offender program that could lead to a significantly reduced jail sentence. Further, Buckley did not inform his client about the conditions of the client’s bond, including the requirement that the client participate in monitored sobriety. In addition, though Buckley’s representation included preparing for and attending his client’s driver’s license revocation hearing before the Department of Motor Vehicles, Buckley failed to request the hearing and failed to notify his client that the client’s license had been revoked.

The client terminated the representation before the case concluded. Because Buckley had not completed two benchmarks corresponding to 45% of his client’s fee, he knew that he had not earned a portion of his client’s fee when the representation ended, and he knew that his client had not authorized him to take or use all of the funds. But Buckley did not refund any money to his client. Instead, Buckley depleted his trust account, knowing that his client’s money was in his trust account. During the investigation in this matter, Buckley knew that disciplinary authorities had requested his financial and trust account records, but he did not provide the requested information.

Buckley’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.2(a) (a lawyer must abide by the client’s decisions concerning the objectives of a case and consult with the client regarding the means to achieve the objectives); Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer must act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(1)–(4) (a lawyer must promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance requiring the client’s informed consent, reasonably consult with the client about the means to accomplish the client’s objectives, keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the client’s matter, and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); Colo. RPC 1.4(b) (a lawyer must explain a matter so as to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation); Colo. RPC 1.15A(a) (a lawyer must hold client property separate from the lawyer’s own property); Colo. RPC 1.15D (a lawyer must maintain trust account records); Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (a lawyer must protect a client’s interests on termination of the representation, including by returning unearned fees); Colo. RPC 8.1(b) (a lawyer must not knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority); and Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

Official Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge proceedings can be found at the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge website.

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