Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jackson lawyer accused of embezzling from client

A lawsuit accuses a Jackson lawyer of embezzling $40,720 from his clients in a wrongful death lawsuit.  A Covington County family sued attorney Ramal Cotton in Hinds County Chancery Court on September 14, 2016.  Mr. Cotton sits on the boards of the Voice of Cavalry Ministries and the Downtown Jackson Neighborhood Association.  The plaintiffs are currently trying to throw him in jail. 

Mr. Cotton represented Herman, Naomi, Gary, and Kawani Shivers in a wrongful death action filed in Covington County in 2015 after Elando Shivers died in 2014 after being struck by a vehicle.  The complaint alleges that State Farm and Hartford Insurance both paid $25,000 each to Mr. Cotton for distribution to the plaintiffs.  However, the complaint also alleges that he gave the insurance companies a bogus general release and indemnity agreement.  The Jackson lawyer allegedly never gave any of the funds to the plaintiffs.  The State Farm case was dismissed with prejudice by the Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs tried to contact the lawyer but state that his cellphone number was "out of service" and they were not allowed to enter his office.  The plaintiffs had enough and retained Jackson attorney Felecia Perkins.  Ms. Perkins sued Ramal Cotton on September 13, 2016.  The lawsuit charges Mr. Cotton with a breach of fiduciary duty and  converting the settlement to his own personal use.  The Shivers' also ask for an accounting of the $50,000 settlement funds and ask the court to direct Mr. Cotton to deposit $40,720 into a registry of the court.*  They also asked for punitive damages and attorney fees.

Mr. Cotton responded to the complaint but then did not show for his own deposition.  The plaintiffs filed a motion for sanctions against the defendant in January.  Special Chancellor Judge Grant** agreed with the Shivers and ordered Cotton to deposit $40,720 with the court and submit an accounting of the $50,000 to the court as well. The Chancellor also awarded sanctions of $661 to the plaintiffs and ordered Mr. Cotton to appear at a deposition at Ms. Perkins' office on February 3.

Mr. Cotton deposited the $40,720 in the court registry but argued in a motion to alter judgment that the notice for the deposition did not give him enough time to respond.  He also asked the court to reconsider imposing sanctions. 

The defendant apparently did not satisfy the plaintiff's because they are now trying to throw him in jail.  Ms. Perkins filed a request for incarceration on March 13.  The petition states:

5. The Defendant has willfully, obstinately, and contumaciously failed to submit a complete and detailed accounting, with supporting documentation, of the money received from the $25,000.00 proceeds from State Fann Insurance and the $25,000.00 proceeds from Hartford Insurance to the Law Office of Felecia Perkins, P.A. and to the Court as of the date of the filing of this  petition.
The plaintiffs also charge that Mr. Cotton never paid the sanctions of $661 that were ordered by the court.  Mr. Cotton also apparently did not appear at the February 3 deposition (KF note: Dear Mr. Cotton, are you sure you want to go down this path with Judge Grant?).  They asked Judge Grant to have the defendant arrested and immediately and sit for a deposition while in custody. 

No ruling has yet been made on the petition for incarceration or contempt.  A trial is scheduled for July 24 at 9:00 AM in Judge Grant's courtroom in Rankin County. 

The Mississippi Bar's website states that it suspended Mr. Cotton's license to practice law due to non-payment of dues.  

*Mr. Cotton paid $9,280 on July 15, 2016 for funeral expenses after receiving a demand letter.

**Dear Mr. Cotton: This Chancellor doesn't play.  Ask Vann Leonard and Mike Brown.

Kingfish note: What are the odds that the Bar and District Attorney will do anything? 


Anonymous said...

Are any lawyers familiar with him surprised? I seriously doubt it.

Anonymous said...

John Grant is going to light his ass up.

Anonymous said...

Not a member of the state bar. suspended "non payment of dues" Surprise Surprise !!!

Anonymous said...

Any worse than the lawyer that stole $50.000 from his own firm and now the elite members of the Bar are all trying to help him get back in the Bar?

Anonymous said...

Looks like he's currently suspended from the bar for non-payment.

Anonymous said...

And that elite member's disbarment was never reported in the Mississippi Lawyer?

Anonymous said...

what a dumbass

Anonymous said...

1:10, do you not believe in second chances? The lawyer you reference did not steal from a client, and no doubt his partners have recouped their loss. He has suffered self-inflicted humiliation. All of us are human, all of us have sinned.

Don't confuse the person you reference with any of the pond scum lawyers that defraud clients.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of when a certain lawyer sent an unsolicited email and conducted unwarranted research...only to send a bill in the mail for $300 and change. I guess that covered his meals for that week.

Anonymous said...

Attn 2:00 PM That is a good attempt to clear you name, let us know how it works.

Anonymous said...

Reason number 50-11 you shouldn't have 25/50/25 state minimum auto liability limits.

Anonymous said...

@2:00pm. Are you serious? Are you really saying that an attorney is clear to steal as long as it's not from a client and that the people from whom he stole can recoup their losses?

He suffered (I really don't believe this) "self-inflicted humiliation"???? Are you suggesting, as it appears you are, that this is sufficient punishment for felony theft?

Yes we all are sinners, but that does not absolve anyone from punishment for illegal behavior. Peddle your BS somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, the lawyer being referenced by 2:00 p.m. has accepted full and complete responsibility for his admittedly TERRIBLE behavior. The reason we know that the poster at 2:00 p.m. is not the disbarred lawyer himself is because the disbarred lawyer has not once tried to justify his actions. He has accepted responsibility, made peace with those whom he offended and wronged, served sacrificially his fellow man while away from law practice, and done everything required in order to justify reinstatement. If one believes that reinstatement to the practice of law, in and of itself, should never be an option, that's one thing. But to bitch and moan about a fellow exercising his right to employ the reinstatement process is something else altogether. I, along with the hundreds of other lawyers who have given their imprimatur to his reinstatement request, look forward to his reinstatement in due course.

Anonymous said...

1:10 - wrong - he did not steal from the firm he stole from a client
2:00 - you disagreed with 1:10 but adopted his incorrect recitation of the facts. Now that you know that it was defrauding a client, do you still think the lawyer is or is not pond scum?
3:27 - no chance the lawyer now applying for reinstatement to the bar is commenting here to clear his name. And he certainly wouldn't adopt incorrect facts to do so.
4:47 - although 2 pm incorrectly adopted 1:10's misstatement of the facts, the 2 pm comment was not in any way suggesting that an attorney is clear to steal from anybody. I realize 2 pm thinks that lawyers who steal from non clients should get a chance at redemption and lawyers who steal from clients are not redeemable, but the point of the comment was second chances. The lawyer didn't get a "second chance." To me a second chance is more like a free pass. in other words no consequences. Here, there were severe consequences. The lawyer lost his law license and tarnished his 30 year reputation and embarrassed himself. He also lost a significantly large income. Should he have gotten the death penalty instead? Does it matter to you that the lawyer has confessed the sins completely and immediately, served his time being disbarred, and if reinstated plans to work for a charity? Doing the crime and then doing the time and then building a life after is not really a second chance. That's more like rehabilitation to me. I hope not to become so cynical as to believe humanity cannot be rehabilitated when a mistake is made. Nobody is suggesting anyone should be absolved from punishment. Perhaps we can debate about how much punishment should have occurred, but let's at least focus on he issue. Can't we agree that after you have served the appropriate punishment you should get to get back on the wheel of life again? Including re-entering your profession after serving the punishment?

Anonymous said...

Nice to know you can commit a felony and your fellow attorneys will "help a brotha out".

A cop stole a drug dealer's car from the impound lot? He's sorry, and it's not like he shook down an innocent citizen. He's done community service and his former police brothers want to let him back into law enforcement, so why not?

A doctor got hooked on narcotics that he took from the hospital? Hey, he's so sorry and he has suffered humiliation...self-inflicted even! It's not like he killed anyone on the operating table. He went through rehab and provided free medical care to homeless guys on West Capitol. His fellow doctors support the reinstatement of his medical license, so why not?

A junior high teacher was fired because she was hooking in a truck stop on the weekends? But she's REALLY sorry and it's not like she had sex with the kids in her class. She started going to church and taught some poor people to read. All her male students (and two girls who take shop) believe she should be reinstated, so why not?

Anonymous said...

Hell, 2:00 might have a point. Stealing from other lawyers should not be a crime - using the basic rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

Who better to steal from than a bunch of lawyers? And then claim that you shouldn't be estopped from continuing in the profession because you really didn't mean harm.

Question is, 2:00, if Mississippi Bar does reinstate his license, are his partners willing to let him back into the firm? Then we will know if he has made peace with those from whom he stole.

Anonymous said...

Including re-entering your profession after serving the punishment?

Sorry, but I have a very hard time granting someone who willingly and knowingly broke the law re-entry into a profession that is associated with administering justice in regard to the law.

No one is telling him he can't earn a living. He can become a chef or open a bar. It's certainly good enough for other people, so why not him? Just because he made a nice living and lost it by his own actions does not guarantee him access to that same level of income.

If a licensed financial adviser was found guilty of making incredibly risky investments with his clients' assets to cover his own personal debts, would you trust him with your money, even if he were sorry and made restitution?

If a minister had an affair, got a woman pregnant, and had her abort the child to cover up his behavior, would you support him to lead your place of worship, even if he repented? Not just forgive him, but reinstate him as the leader of the flock?

If a physician prescribed drugs to patients that may have been dangerous because he was getting a kickback from the pharmaceutical company, would you be comfortable with him treating your family, even if he admitted guilt and was genuinely sorry?

Sorry, but I just cannot accept this. He can find another way to make his living, but he has broken the trust of judicial system. Saying he is really sorry just isn't good enough. And because you all play tennis at the club together doesn't cut any additional ice.

Anonymous said...

Joined this late, apparently. Who is the mystery lawyer seeking reinstatement?

Anonymous said...

Damn if all of the possible examples don't make sense. But we gotta remember, we are talking about lawyers here. Comparing the actions of a doctor, or a minister, or a teacher to what we would expect out of a lawyer just doesn't matter. The other professions have an expectation of ethical behavior.

Anonymous said...

5:52 - 5:26 here. You make an excellent point. One that I struggled with as my intent to point out how commenters here often don't have a clue, turned into a rant about doing your crime, serving your time, and moving on. Sounds like your position is that once you have defamed your profession, you should suffer the professional death penalty. Would I let a crooked financial advisor control my money? No. Would I let a sinful pastor be a pastor again? Maybe. might even go to the church. Would I like a doctor who was getting kickbacks be my doctor? Probably, as long as he was really good at the doctoring part. Is a lawyer stealing client funds a death penalty for the career? Death penalty seems a bit strong. Maybe that is the way it should be. But I have to admit, knowing this mystery lawyer, and what he went through, I am satisfied that he took his punishment like a man swiftly and firmly. He didn't deny, didn't defend, and didn't fight. He confessed, turned in his bar card and accepted the punishment the Bar handed down. During his many years of punishment, he rehabilitated in significant ways. I'm encouraged by that. And I like that our society encourages people to recover even from the most terrible of mistakes. If a lawyer stole from me, I would be super upset. But I would be way more upset if my wife cheated on me. If she cheats, does that mean she should not be eligible for remarriage again? If a cheating spouse can be forgiven and someone accept them after cheating, then why can't any fiduciary be rehabilitated? Why are fiduciary relationships more important than marriage? You may believe that rehabilitation is impossible for certain professional conduct. For your sake and mine, I hope you are wrong.

Anonymous said...

If your wife cheats on you, then should she be eligible to remarry another? Sure. Should she be eligible to remarry you? Only if you consent. Your family may have something to say about you revisiting that relationship, but it is your decision alone. If she cheats on you a second time, you'll likely find little sympathy. You will be to blame.

Should this attorney be eligible to earn a living? Sure. Should he be eligible to return to a profession that he sullied and, effectively, cheated upon? That's up to the person he cheated, i.e. the Bar. However, the problem is that it's not just the Bar that shoulders the responsibility. It's all that come into professional association with this person - judges, attorneys, paralegals, clients. By granting him the endorsement of the MBA, he is accorded a level of trust and legitimacy that he does not, in my opinion, deserve.

Marriage, while it affects others, is basically a one to one relationship. A professional who breaks his vow forfeits trust not just from one, but many. You seem quite willing to support his effort to return to practice, but are you willing to accept responsibility AND punishment for this attorney should he break the law in the future? It's quite easy to give your imprimatur to his reinstatement request when you know there will be little if any repercussion should he transgress again. Maybe a tsk tsk from the locker room of the country club at most.

I wonder if you barrister types would be so willing to let your golf fourth back into the lawyers' club should you suffer real personal and professional sanction if he were to revisit his thieving ways.

Anonymous said...

2:00 here, and most certainly not the lawyer everyone is referencing. Much better arguments made by those posting after me - both for and against reinstatement.

Sorry to have taken this so far off thread from the lawyer who is the subject of the original post. Kingfish, thanks for the transparency in reporting on the legal profession in addition to politicians and other jackassery.

Anonymous said...

This lawyer is one of John Horhn biggesr supporters.. Birds of a feather, flock together..

Anonymous said...

@7:30 I wrote a response last night but KF apparently rejected it. Lord only knows what passes for unacceptable in his mind these days.

In short, marriage is between you and your wife. She's free to remarry - even you if you consent, but if she cheats again, the harm is largely contained to the two of you.

A fiduciary who betrays the public trust is a different matter. He's free to earn a living in a number of fields, but returning him to the administration of justice is quite another matter. It's not a one to one relationship when he is reinstated. Rather, he impacts a large number of people, from the MBA to his clients. If he breaks the law again, there is damage to many parties. But those who advocated for him to rejoin his former well-paid vocation will get little more than a tsk-tsk-shoulda-known-better.

I'm all for redemption and if the legal mechanisms are in place for reinstatement then he should be allowed to pursue them, but I am wary of trusting a reformed alcoholic with the key to my liquor cabinet. I would hope the Bar would focus more on its duty to uphold the public trust than on welcoming an old friend back to the land of billable hours and BMWs.

I wonder if those supporting his reinstatement would be so eager should they be held personally responsible if he were to transgress again. Call me a cynic, but I doubt it would be so.

Anonymous said...

It would be a mistake to reinstate either lawyer to the Bar even if both made restitution, took responsibility for their actions, apologized to all that were harmed and atoned through good works.
All that would be necessary for forgiveness from those harmed and embarrassed . They would have earned a second chance as a friend.
The profession, however, should never readmit lawyer with such ethical violations. Already, the public has lost faith in the law due to a failure of both the bar and judges to enforce laws governing the actions of a lawyer and ethical standards.
And, you do the lawyers no favors to put them back into a situation where they could be tempted again.
I would support a limited license that would allow them to practice law pro bono and be paid by the court. That would remove temptation and help restore a belief in obtaining justice in our present legal system.

Anonymous said...

What is the name of this lawyer? I am pretty sure if this involved a doctor, preacher,business person, or celebrity, we would already know.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cotton also serves on the board of Downtown Jackson Partners. Woo Hoo.......................

Anonymous said...

With Mr. Cotton being suspended - even for non payment of dues, he has to stop practicing law.

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Trollfest '09

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Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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