On Tuesday, August 15, 2023, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommended a six-month suspension for attorney Russell S. Stegeman, citing multiple violations of the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Russell S. Stegeman,” and was brought by the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) with case no. 23-DB-008.

The charges cited Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4(a)(2), 3.3(a)(1), 8.1(a), and 8.4(a) (c) (d)..

The ODC lodged formal charges against Stegeman, accusing him of violating multiple rules of professional conduct. The Hearing Committee’s thorough investigation has revealed significant breaches by Stegeman, including negligence, dishonesty, and false statements. The charges, formally filed on February 1, 2023, culminated in a hearing held on July 12, 2023. During the hearing, the Committee diligently examined testimonies from various witnesses and scrutinized exhibits presented by both the ODC and Stegeman’s legal team.

In the matter concerning Christian Arnouville, Stegeman represented his client in a custody case. Unfortunately, he failed to appear at the trial, prompting accusations of violating Rule 1.3, which pertains to diligence. Even more concerning were Stegeman’s false statements to the ODC, where he knowingly and intentionally claimed a mere 10-minute delay. The Committee uncovered the deceptive nature of Stegeman’s responses, which encompass misconduct involving dishonesty and actions prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The filing states:

“On May 26, 2022, the complainant, opposing party, and opposing counsel, Paul Brown, appeared. The Respondent told ODC that he was “ten minutes late due to unexpected heavy traffic. However, within that short amount of time, Christian Arnouville had accepted the terms of the settlement we previously negotiated and was no longer in the courthouse.” According to Mr. Brown and Mr. Arnouville, they both arrived near 8:30 a.m. and the matter wasn’t taken up by the court for one to two hours after their arrival. Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Arnouville stated the Respondent never appeared, and the hearing minutes reflect that Mr. Arnouville was not represented.”

In another alarming instance, involving the divorce case of Jason Debarbieras against Rebecca Heilman, Stegeman filed an unopposed motion to continue the trial without Heilman’s knowledge or consent. Moreover, Stegeman’s false statements about the trial date to the court and his office staff further compounded his violations.

The filing continues:

“On August 26, 2022, Ms. Heilman traveled from Metairie to Edgard, Louisiana for the trial. She appeared, ready to proceed to trial, with her client, two lay witnesses, and a minor child witness who was missing school to attend the trial. Upon her arrival, she learned the judge and court reporter were not present and that the Respondent had filed an “Unopposed Motion to Continue,” of which the Complainant was unaware.”

In its conclusion, the Hearing Committee unequivocally established that Stegeman’s actions in both the Arnouville and Heilman matters constituted breaches of several rules of professional conduct. The committee found grounds for disciplinary action against him due to his negligence, falsehoods, and dishonest conduct.

The recommendation states:

“In Conclusion, the Committee makes the following recommendations: That respondent Russell S. Stegeman be suspended from the practice of law for a period of 6 months.

That upon his reinstatement to the practice of law, respondent Russell S. Stegeman be required to work with a practice monitor for a period of 1 year, the terms and conditions to be set by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.”

According to avvo.com,  Mr. Stegeman practices in Covington, Louisiana. He is licensed in Louisiana.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.