Lawyer is Disciplined For Withdrawing From A Case Without Sufficient Notice

The case is In re: Gary R. Sammons, No. 2014-001, Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct.

Sammons was retained by Crystal Stevens in a family law matter, in which Ms. Stevens’ husband, Tyler Stevens, sought a change in custody of the parties’ minor child. The pertinent factual findings were as follows:

2. On June 28, 2013, Gary Sammons filed an answer for Crystal Stevens, contesting the change of custody of the parties’ minor son to the father.

3. By notice dated July 24, 2013, and addressed to both counsel, the court set a forty-five minute temporary hearing on August 14, 2013, at 1:15 p.m. in the Stevens case.

4. On August 14, 2013, at 1:04 p.m., eleven minutes before the scheduled temporary hearing, Sammons filed a motion to withdraw, stating that he had not been fully retained, had been paid nothing, and had expended 3.5 hours, billed at a total of $525.00 on the case.

5. On August 14, 2013, the temporary hearing was conducted with Sammons in attendance. The transcript was attached to the Complaint. Though specifically not relieved or allowed to withdraw, Sammons declined to participate in the hearing for his client, even though directed to do so by the trial court. [Apparently, the court instructed Sammons to participate in the hearing and informed him that the motion to withdraw was not granted.]

6. By letter of August 28, 2013, the trial judge, Honorable Marcia Hearnsberger, referred Sammons’ conduct at the hearing to the Committee.

The committee found that Sammons violated four rules of professional conduct; (a) Rule 1.16(c) – Sammons filed a motion to withdraw without giving notice to his client or the court and failed to participate in the hearing after the judge instructed him to do so; (b) Rule 1.16(d) – Sammons failed to take necessary steps to protect the client’s interests; (c) Rule 3.4(c) – Sammons disobeyed a court order to participate in the hearing without any valid basis to do so; (d) Rule 8.4(d) – Sammons abandoned his client a few minutes before a custody hearing was to take place. The Committee found that this conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice. Finally, the Committee voted to reprimand and fine Sammons and to take a continuing legal eduction case on the lawyer’s duties when withdrawing from a matter.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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