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Disciplinary Case Summaries

January 22, 2021


No. 20PDJ070. People v. Berumen. 12/16/2020. Conditional Admission of Misconduct—Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Mark Joseph Berumen (attorney registration number 29628) for 60 days, all to be stayed upon the successful completion of a one-year period of probation, with conditions. The probation took effect on December 16, 2020.

In April 2018, Berumen agreed to represent a married couple in their bankruptcy matter. Berumen filed the bankruptcy petition without including the required financial management certificates the couple had sent to his office. As a result, the bankruptcy court closed the case without discharge. The couple hired new counsel in April 2019, and their lawyer notified Berumen of the change in representation. In June 2019, without authorization and without notifying the couple, Berumen filed a motion to reopen on their behalf; he also filed the financial management certificates. That same day, the wife signed a new bankruptcy petition with her counsel. Two days later, she received an email from Berumen attaching a copy of the discharge in the original bankruptcy case. As a result, the couple’s lawyer had to move to reopen the case so that their new debt could be included.

Through this conduct, Berumen 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).

The case file is public per CRCP 251.31.

 

No. 18PDJ043. People v. Betterton-Fike. 3/15/2020. Opinion on Remand Imposing Sanctions—Attorney Suspended.

On remand from the Colorado Supreme Court, a hearing board suspended W. Bradley Betterton-Fike (attorney registration number 36250) for eight months, with the requirement that he seek reinstatement, if at all, under CRCP 251.29(c). Betterton-Fike appealed the hearing board’s opinion on remand; the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed without opinion on November 2, 2020. Betterton-Fike’s suspension took effect on December 18, 2020. To be reinstated, Betterton-Fike must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law.

Betterton-Fike assaulted his wife in their marital bedroom when he spat in her face and punched her multiple times in the arm, leading to his criminal assault conviction. Betterton-Fike thereby 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).

The case file is public per CRCP 251.31.

 

No. 20PDJ059. People v. Noffsinger. 12/3/2020. Conditional Admission of Misconduct—Attorney Suspended.

The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ conditional admission of misconduct and suspended Daniel N. Noffsinger (attorney registration number 42703) for 25 months. The suspension took effect on December 3, 2020. To be reinstated, Noffsinger must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has been rehabilitated, has complied with disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law.

In June 2020, Noffsinger, who had worked as a prosecutor until 2016, was sentenced to two years of criminal probation, with conditions, for an act of domestic violence. A jury found him guilty of extortion, a class 4 felony, and harassment, a class 3 misdemeanor. Noffsinger’s conviction arose from a March 2019 Facebook messaging conversation that he initiated with a former romantic partner, who was subject to a criminal protection order barring her from contact with him. Noffsinger messaged the victim to express his love for her in anticipation of his undergoing surgery the following day. She inquired whether he was trying to use something against her in court, and he replied, “Not if you can be kind.” When she asked him to stop contacting her, Noffsinger wrote, “Then we will do it that way. Enjoy your weekend in jail and your additional charge unless you say otherwise in the next 10 minutes.” He also wrote, “2 minutes then I have no choice but to send your criminal ass to jail again,” and “Oh babe . . . please don’t make me send you to jail again.” Noffsinger then called the police and tried to persuade them to arrest the victim.

In a separate incident, Noffsinger traveled to Tennessee with a different romantic partner. Bystanders summoned the police after they heard a woman screaming “get off me” and “someone help me!” Noffsinger was not cooperative with the officers and stepped between the officers and the victim, who declined to answer the officers’ questions. The victim seemed frightened, was crying, and appeared to have bruising on her arms and shoulders and a swollen, bleeding bottom lip. There was also blood on the bed sheets. Though Noffsinger was arrested, the victim did not wish to prosecute, and charges were dismissed.

Finally, in a domestic relations client matter, Noffsinger did not reasonably communicate with his client about a case management order setting forth upcoming dates, and he did not provide the client a later court order clarifying an earlier ruling. Nor did he take reasonable steps to safeguard the client’s interests pertaining to those orders. Noffsinger was immediately suspended in July 2020. Though he sent the client a letter terminating the relationship, he did not withdraw as counsel of record.

Through this conduct, Noffsinger violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a) (a lawyer shall reasonably communicate with the client); Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (a lawyer shall protect a client’s interests upon termination of the representation, including by giving reasonable notice to the client); Colo. RPC 8.4(b) (a lawyer shall not 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) (a lawyer shall not engage in any conduct that directly, intentionally, and wrongfully harms others and that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law).

The case file is public per CRCP 251.31.