The Mississippi Bar announced the following disciplinary actions in the Winter 2016 and Summer 2015 issues of the Mississippi Lawyer. No disciplinary actions were published in the Fall 2015 issue.
1. The Bar suspended Donald Jason Embry (Long Beach) from the practice of law for three years. The magazine reports:
Mr. Embry was hired to represent a client in an appeal of a DUI II conviction to the County Court of Harrison County, Mississippi. Mr. Embry entered his appearance in the appeal. However, Mr. Embry failed to advise the client of the court date for the trial. As a result, neither the client nor Mr. Embry appeared for the trial and the judge issued a writ of procedendo. The client was placed in jail. The client was then forced to hire another lawyer to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The new lawyer attempted to retrieve the file from Mr. Embry, but Mr. Embry failed or refused to communicate with the client or the new attorney. In essence, Mr. Embry abandoned his client.
Mr. Embry’s contract of representation with the client provided that he would represent him at a rate of $150.00 per hour and charge him for a nonrefundable retainer in the amount of $1,500.00. The funds received for the retainer should have been placed in Mr. Embry’s lawyer trust account and billed against at the hourly rate. On information and belief, Mr. Embry failed to put the retainer funds into his lawyer trust account. Further, Mr. Embry did not earn the amount of the fees received for the retainer.
Mr. Embry proceeded to blow off the bar complaint. He didn't respond to id and hung up on a Bar representative when he discovered the caller's identity. The notice does not state whether he attended the hearing.
2. The bar suspended Booneville attorney Ronald Michael from the practice of law for three years:
Chancery Judge alleging Mr. Michael had taken an attorney’s fee in an estate matter without first obtaining approval from the Court. The Court subsequently declined to approve the fee and ordered the funds be returned to the estate. However, Mr. Michael had already converted the fee to his own use and was unable to pay the funds back. He subsequently filed a petition under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code...
Mr. Michael considered the fee earned in spite of his knowledge that he would have to return the fees to the estate in the event the Chancery Court failed to subsequently approve the fee. At the time Mr. Michael received the fee from his client, he was suffering from depression. The Complaint Tribunal found that there was no intent or selfish motive on the part of Mr. Michael to convert the funds. The Complaint Tribunal also found that since the attorneys’ fee was subject to the approval of the chancery judge, Mr. Michael did not own the funds. As such, the funds he received for his attorney fee should have been placed in his lawyer trust account and disbursed after the funds were approved by the Chancery Court.
The Bar said there is no intent element so he was subject to sanctions.
3. The Bar disbarred Joe Dale Walker of Monticello. He pleaded guilty to one count of Obstruction of Justice. The notice does not provide the name of the case. The reader would never know any details of this offense if he relied on the Mississippi Lawyer. Heck, the notice doesn't even state that he is a judge.
4. The Bar suspended Ridgeland attorney Robert Harrison for 180 days after he pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion.
5. Jackson attorney Ermea J. Russell was sent to the bench for ten months after the Bar determined she "committed seven violations". She apparently went to work for the court of appeals and didn't clear out her cases within the required six months. She didn't notify her clients that she could no longer represent them as well. She also didn't respond to the seven bar complaints.
6. A private reprimand was issued against a lawyer for not properly withdrawing from a case after he was terminated by the client.