On Monday, January 29, 2024, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommends sanctioning attorney Robert William Hjortsberg for tax evasion.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Robert William Hjortsberg,” with case no. 22-DB-038.

The charges cited Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(a), 8.4(b) and 8.4(c). 

The Board met to consider formal charges brought by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel against attorney Robert William Hjortsberg. The charges stem from two separate complaints. In Count 1, Hjortsberg admitted to failing to file federal income tax returns for 2017 and 2018. Records show the attorney had a significant income of over $153,000 combined in those years but did not pay the required taxes of around $45,000. Hjortsberg pled guilty in federal court to tax evasion. As part of his sentence, he paid full restitution and was placed on probation.

Count 2 involves Hjortsberg’s representation of a criminal defendant, Zarius Brown, facing attempted murder charges. During jury selection in Brown’s March 2020 trial, Brown disappeared from the courtroom on a break and did not return. While upset by this unexpected turn, Hjortsberg claims he did not know Brown would flee. When the judge denied requests for a delay, Hjortsberg made a strategic choice to not participate further, instead only observing from the counsel table. Brown was convicted in his absence. However, an appeals court later overturned the conviction, citing ineffective counsel.

After considering testimony and evidence, the Board found clear violations in Count 1 regarding tax evasion. However, for Count 2, the Board did not find violations of rules requiring diligence or banning prejudice to the justice system. The Board acknowledged the difficult spot Hjortsberg faced and found no proof he intended to disrespect or conspire with Brown.

For the violations in Count 1, the Board recommends Hjortsberg be suspended from practice for 6 months, with all but 2 months deferred contingent on a year of probation. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel objects, arguing the sanctions do not properly address Hjortsberg’s actions during the criminal trial in Count 2. A final decision now goes to the Louisiana Supreme Court for review.

The recommendation states:

“Based on the above, the Board recommends that Respondent, Robert William Hjortsberg, be suspended from the practice of law for six months, with all but two months (60 days) deferred. After serving the active portion of the suspension, the Board recommends that Respondent be placed on probation for a period of a period of one year.”

According to avvo.com, Mr. Hjortsberg is an attorney in New Orleans, Louisiana. He acquired his law license in Louisiana in 2008.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.