People v. Wake.
No. 22PDJ061. 3/23/2023. Opinion Imposing Sanctions.
May 1, 2023
After entering an order of default for failure to participate in the disciplinary proceeding, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge held a sanctions hearing and disbarred Patrick Wake (Wyoming attorney registration number 7-5421) from the practice of law in Colorado, effective April 27, 2023. In addition, Wake must pay $23,895 in restitution to five former clients.
Wake, who is licensed to practice law in Wyoming but not in Colorado, maintained an immigration law practice in Aurora. On February 3, 2021, Wake was suspended for one year and one day in disciplinary case number 20PDJ038.
In one matter, a client paid Wake $5,000 to represent the client in an immigration case. Wake did not put the client’s money in a trust account. The client had a hearing in April 2021, but Wake did not tell the client that he was suspended until the day before the hearing. Though Wake performed no substantive work on the client’s case, he failed to return the client’s unearned fees and did not provide the client with an accounting of the funds.
In a second matter, a client paid Wake $600 in January 2021 to file a work authorization renewal for the client. Wake never filed the work authorization and did not respond to his client’s attempts to communicate. Nor did he inform his client of his suspension. Wake failed to hold the client’s funds in trust and did not refund any unearned portion of the client’s money.
Beginning in April 2019, a third client paid Wake $6,000 in installments to represent the client in an asylum case. Wake did not put the client’s funds in a trust account, and he neither filed the asylum application for the client nor refunded the client’s unearned fee. In addition, Wake never notified the client of his suspension, and he failed to return the client’s file and paperwork—including a copy of the client’s passport—after his suspension.
In a fourth matter, Wake failed to file an asylum application for a client but did not refund the unearned portion of the client’s retainer, which Wake did not keep in a trust account. Wake did not inform the client of his suspension, and he failed to respond to the client’s communications after July 2021.
In another matter, after Wake appealed the denial of a client’s asylum application, the client received a notice that immigration authorities filed a motion for summary affirmance in the appeal. In May 2021, the client sent Wake a picture of the notice, which required a timely response. Wake, who never notified the client about his suspension, told the client that the notice was a summary of the opposing party’s answer to the appeal and to await a decision from the court.
In a sixth case, a couple paid Wake $495 in June 2019 to assist with a work authorization renewal. Wake failed to hold the clients’ money in trust and never applied for the renewal. After the work authorization for one of the clients expired in December 2019, the clients had difficulty contacting Wake. A hearing in the clients’ case was eventually set for April 2022. The day before the hearing, the clients spoke with Wake, who told them that he was suspended and therefore could not represent them at the hearing. Wake told the clients that he would refund their fee and return their file, but he never followed up or provided a refund.
Wake’s conduct violated Colo. RPC 1.1 (a lawyer must provide competent representation to a client); Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer must act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer must keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(4) (a lawyer must promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(5) (a lawyer must consult with the client regarding limitations on the lawyer’s conduct); Colo. RPC 1.15A(a) (a lawyer must hold property of clients or third persons that is in the lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer’s own property); Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (on termination of the representation, a lawyer must take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests, such as refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred); Colo. RPC 3.4(c) (a lawyer must not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal except for an open refusal based on an assertion that no valid obligation exists); 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, deceit, fraud or misrepresentation).