On August 31, 2022, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommended to the Louisiana Supreme Court the disbarment of  Shreveport Attorney, Mr. W. James Singleton for violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The case was brought to the board by the Office of the Disciplinary Council.

The case is styled ‘In the Matter of James W. Singleton with Case #20-DB-036.

The charges cited rules of professional conduct Rules 1.5(c), 1.15(a), 1.15(d), 8.1(a), 8.4(a), and 8.4(c: Rules 1.5(c) which states:

A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by Paragraph (d) or other law. A contingent fee agreement shall be in a writing signed by the client. A copy or duplicate original of the executed agreement shall be given to the client at the time of execution of the agreement. The contingency fee agreement shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal; the litigation and other expenses that are to be deducted from the recovery; and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. The agreement must clearly notify the client of any expenses for which the client will be liable whether or not the client is the prevailing party. Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client with a written statement stating the outcome of the matter and, if there is a recovery, showing the remittance to the client and the method of its determination.

A lawyer shall hold property of clients or third persons that is in a lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer’s own property. Except as provided in (g) and the IOLTA Rules below, funds shall be kept in one or more separate interest-bearing client trust accounts maintained in a bank or savings and loan association: 1) authorized by federal or state law to do business in Louisiana, the deposits of which are insured by an agency of the federal government; 2) in the state where the lawyer’s primary office is situated, if not within Louisiana; or 3) elsewhere with the consent of the client or third person. No earnings on a client trust account may be made available to or utilized by a lawyer or law firm. Other property shall be identified as such and appropriately safeguarded. Complete records of such account funds and other property shall be kept by the lawyer and shall be preserved for a period of five years after termination of the representation.

Upon receiving funds or other property in which a client or third person has an interest, a lawyer shall promptly notify the client or third person. For purposes of this rule, the third person’s interest shall be one of which the lawyer has actual knowledge, and shall be limited to a statutory lien or privilege, a final judgment addressing the disposition of those funds or property, or a written agreement by the client or the lawyer on behalf of the client guaranteeing payment out of those funds or property. Except as stated in this rule or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client, a lawyer shall promptly deliver to the client or third person any funds or other property that the client or third person is entitled to receive and, upon request by the client or third person, shall promptly render a full accounting regarding such property.

An applicant for admission to the bar, or a lawyer in connection with a bar admission application or in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not: (a) Knowingly make a false statement of material fact.

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: (a) Violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another.

Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

The rules of professional conduct can be found here.

The following are as alleged and summarized from the filing.

On August 6, 2021, the ODC issued its report finding that Respondent violated Rules of Professional Conduct. Allegedly, the respondent failed to disburse the entirety of a client’s portion of the settlement in a prompt and timely manner.

The filing states:

“On June 20, 2012, the respondent instructed his staff to tender a $90,000 check to the client and retained the balance of the funds due. At the time of the tender, the respondent did not contemporaneously provide the client with a disbursement sheet itemizing the deduction of fees and expenses, as required by rule. Although the contingency fee contract with the client called for the respondent to receive a $300,000 fee (representing forty percent of the gross settlement), the respondent’s account records reflect that the respondent withdrew $428,700 in identifiable attorneys’ fees from the gross settlement proceeds between June 14, 2012, and July 26, 2012.”

The filing continues:

“When the client later called the respondent to inquire about receiving the balance of the settlement funds, the respondent advised him that he should allow the respondent to invest the funds for the client’s benefit. The client did not agree to respondent’s proposal and insisted on receiving the remainder of his funds. After some delay, the respondent relented and agreed to meet with Mr. Johnson in his office on August 1, 2012. At that meeting, the respondent tendered a second check to the client in the amount of $148,000. Because the respondent again failed to provide the client with a disbursement sheet, the client remained entirely unaware about the expenses which had been paid and the precise amount due him from the settlement.”

The filing further alleges:

“Despite being placed on notice of the expense, the respondent never paid the expense nor tendered the funds to the client at the time of settlement; he retained the funds in his client trust account, the balance of which in the interim, fell below the amount necessary to satisfy the expense on multiple occasions, resulting in the conversion of the client’s funds.”

The Board adopts the Committee’s findings of fact, and its findings that the Respondent violated Rules 1.5(c), 1.15(a), 1.15(d), 8.1(a), 8.4(a), and 8.4(c), and also adopts the Committee’s recommendation that Respondent be disbarred.

The Disposition states that:

“The Board recommends Respondent, W. James Singleton, be disbarred. Further, the board recommends that Respondent make restitution to Mr. Johnson in the amount of $6,680.80.”

As of today, Mr. Singleton is listed on the website of law firm, The Singleton Law Fim as a practicing attorney. His info can be found online. He attended his Law School at Southern University School and now practices in Shreveport, Louisiana. He has been licensed in Louisiana, license #17801.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.