Disciplinary Case Summaries
April 28, 2023
No. 22PDJ064. People v. Barringer. 3/10/2023. Stipulation to Discipline.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended Matthew Kent Barringer (attorney registration number 35429) for 60 days, all to be stayed upon Barringer’s successful completion of a one-year period of probation with conditions. The discipline took into account substantial mitigating factors. The probation was effective on March 10, 2023.
In May 2019, Barringer agreed to prepare an I-589 asylum application for his client and the client’s son. Barringer charged a flat fee of $4,000 for the work. The fee agreement provided that Barringer would earn the $1,500 deposit by preparing his client’s file and that he would earn the remainder of the fee after appearing at any required hearings in the case. Barringer’s client paid the fee in installments between May and October 2019. Barringer failed to hold his client’s money in his trust account until the money was earned.
The application that Barringer prepared for his client was deficiently prepared and did not establish the required essential eligibility requirements for asylum. Though Barringer’s client told him that she had experienced a specific and articulable harm in her country of origin, Barringer did not include that information in the application. In addition, the application incorrectly stated that it was not filed within a year of the date his client entered the United States.
Barringer also failed to prepare his client for the merits hearing in her asylum case, which took place in October 2019. He did not attend this hearing, instead sending another lawyer to cover the hearing. But that lawyer did not speak Spanish and relied on the client’s friend to translate during a brief conferral before the hearing. At the deportation hearing, Barringer’s client agreed to voluntary departure.
Through this conduct, Barringer violated Colo. RPC 1.3 (a lawyer must act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing a client); Colo. RPC 1.4(b) (a lawyer must explain a matter so as to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation); and Colo. RPC 1.15A(a) (a lawyer must hold client property separate from the lawyer’s own property).
No. 23PDJ004. People v. Ellis. 3/8/2023. Stipulation to Discipline.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and publicly censured Jenna Lynn Ellis (attorney registration number 44026). The public censure was effective on March 8, 2023.
In November and December 2020, while serving as a senior legal advisor to the then-president of the United States and as counsel for his reelection campaign, Ellis made misrepresentations on national television and on Twitter regarding the 2020 presidential election.
Through this conduct, Ellis violated Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).
No. 23PDJ005. People v. Haas. 3/6/2023. Stipulation to Discipline.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended Jonathan David Haas (attorney registration number 40392) for nine months, with six months to be served and three months to be stayed upon Haas’s successful completion of a one-year period of probation with conditions. The suspension was effective on April 10, 2023.
On April 26, 2022, Haas pleaded guilty under a deferred judgment to third-degree assault, a class 1 misdemeanor. The guilty plea arose from an incident in October 2021 when Haas, while driving his vehicle in Denver, engaged in a verbal dispute with a cyclist traveling along the shoulder of the road. During the incident, Haas sprayed water from a water bottle at the cyclist through the passenger-side window. Haas and the cyclist continued the verbal dispute, and Haas turned his vehicle to the right, striking the cyclist and throwing him off of his bicycle. Haas pulled his vehicle over, exited it, and approached the cyclist. Haas and the cyclist then had a physical altercation. Denver police officers eventually arrested Haas at the scene.
Through this conduct, Haas violated Colo. RPC 8.4(b) (it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects) and Colo. RPC 8.4(h) (it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in any conduct that directly, intentionally, and wrongfully harms others and that adversely reflects on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law).
No. 22PDJ054. People v. Jansen. 3/15/2023. Stipulation to Discipline.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended Molly Falk Jansen (attorney registration number 34528) for one year and one day, with $4,000 due in restitution. The suspension was effective on May 1, 2023. To be reinstated to the practice of law after her suspension, Jansen must prove by clear and convincing evidence that she has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law.
Around March 2021, Jansen orally agreed to represent a client in a felony case in Arapahoe County. Because the client was incarcerated in California at the time, Jansen made the oral agreement with the client’s wife, who paid $6,000 toward Jansen’s $20,000 fee around May 12, 2021, and $1,500 in mid-July 2021. Neither the client nor the client’s wife ever received a writing that described the basis or rate of Jansen’s fee. Jansen entered her appearance in the case on May 19, 2021. She conferred with her client just once, during a 15-minute telephone call on June 2, 2021. On July 1, 2021, Jansen told the client’s wife that she was negotiating with the district attorney, who was working to obtain a writ for the client’s appearance at a status conference in mid-August.
Meanwhile, on July 2, 2021, Jansen’s stipulation to discipline was approved in a separate discipline case; in that matter, Jansen agreed to a six-month suspension of her law license, which was to take effect on September 1, 2021. Jansen did not discuss her suspension with the client or the client’s wife. On August 20, 2021, Jansen moved to withdraw from her client’s case, inaccurately stating in her motion that her client wished to apply for a public defender because he was not able to pay Jansen her full fee. On August 30, 2021, Jansen notified the court of the impending suspension and stated that she informed her client of her suspension via certified mail. But Jansen did not notify her client or his wife of the suspension until that day, and she never provided her client with a written notice of her suspension.
During the representation, Jansen resolved a traffic case in Boulder County Court that she believed involved her client but that actually involved an individual with the same first and last name as her client. Jansen never independently verified that the Boulder County case involved her client and never communicated with her client about resolving the Boulder County case.
Through this conduct, Jansen violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer must keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(5) (a lawyer must consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the rules); 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 1.5(h)(1) (a lawyer must communicate the terms of a flat fee in writing before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation, including specific benchmarks for earning a portion of a flat fee, if any portion is to be earned before conclusion of the representation); and Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).
No. 23PDJ007. People v. Landry. 3/2/2023. Stipulation to Discipline.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and publicly censured Scott Paul Landry (attorney registration number 21934). The public censure was effective on April 6, 2023.
Landry represented a plaintiff in a case involving a motor vehicle accident. The lawsuit was against the other driver and the driver’s employer. In April 2022, Landry subpoenaed communications between the employer and employer’s insurer. In response to Landry’s subpoena, the insurer produced documents that unintentionally included a letter from the employer’s lawyer. The letter was intended for the defendants and the insurer, and it contained an analysis of the case, including the facts of the case, potential damages, the defense strategy, and an opinion about the value of the claim. The first page of the letter contained a bolded disclaimer: “ATTORNEY CLIENT AND ATTORNEY WORK PRODUCT PRIVILEGED.”
Landry saw the disclaimer but reviewed a portion of the letter to gain information about what opposing counsel knew in the case. Landry did not promptly notify opposing counsel about the letter, instead deposing a representative of the driver’s employer before opposing counsel learned that Landry had received the letter. Landry was ultimately disqualified from the case based on his review of the letter.
Through this conduct, Landry violated Colo. RPC 4.4(b) (a lawyer who receives a document relating to the representation of the lawyer’s client and knows or reasonably should know that the document was inadvertently sent must promptly notify the sender).
No. 23PDJ011. People v. Newell. 3/20/2023. Stipulation to Discipline.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended Andrew R. Newell (attorney registration number 31121) for 34 months. The suspension was effective on April 24, 2023. To be reinstated to the practice of law after his suspension, Newell must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law.
In 2016, Newell met a Peruvian woman online. They began a romantic relationship, and Newell proposed marriage to facilitate the woman’s medical treatment in the United States. Newell served as the woman’s sponsor. She arrived in the United States in May 2017. The couple married in August 2017 and had a son together. Newell’s spouse was awarded a temporary green card. But the relationship deteriorated, and Newell threatened to withdraw his support or to seek her deportation. In April 2021, after Newell moved to Mississippi with his family, he told his spouse that he had purportedly received a letter from US Citizenship and Immigration Services instructing them to mail their passports to verify their recent out-of-country travel. Newell’s spouse questioned the authenticity of the letter, but Newell insisted that he did not create the letter. She gave Newell her passport; he eventually returned it to her after some time passed. The couple filed for divorce in September 2021. During the disciplinary investigation, Newell initially denied creating this letter but later admitted to fabricating it; he did so, he said, to prevent his spouse from taking their son out of the country. Newell is currently under a court-ordered child support obligation but is now several months behind in his child support payments. No evidence indicates that he has moved to modify his support obligation.
In a client matter, a jury entered a verdict in favor of one of Newell’s clients in April 2021. On the client’s behalf, Newell filed a countersuit. The client sent money to Newell via Venmo to cover the filing fee; that money went into Newell’s personal account. The parties later stipulated to a comprehensive settlement, and $20,000 was sent via Venmo to Newell’s personal account. Newell’s client had an interest in at least part of these funds. Newell acknowledges he did not place these funds in a trust account.
Through this conduct, Newell violated Colo. RPC 1.15A(a) (a lawyer shall hold client property separate from the lawyer’s own property) and Colo. RPC 1.15B(a) (a lawyer in private practice must maintain a trust account into which the lawyer must deposit funds entrusted to the lawyer’s care). Newell also violated Miss. 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) and Miss. RPC 8.4(c) (it is it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).
No. 22PDJ050. People v. Yi. 2/24/2023. Stipulation to Discipline.
The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ amended stipulation to discipline and suspended Michael Yi (attorney registration number 36279) for 30 months. The suspension, which took into account significant mitigation, was effective on April 15, 2023. To be reinstated to the practice of law after his suspension, Yi must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with all disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law.
In November 2016, Yi hired his brother to work as a legal assistant at his firm. During at least a portion of his employment at the firm, Yi’s brother served as a licensed notary public. In October 2020, Yi’s brother took a leave of absence from the law firm; as a result, no notary worked in the office from October 2020 until May 2021. During that time, Yi used his brother’s notary stamp and license, and he forged his brother’s signature on at least 14 different clients’ settlement documents.
Through this conduct, Yi violated Colo. RPC 8.4(b) (it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects) and Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (a lawyer must not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).