On Thursday, August 10, 2023, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board accepted the recommendation of the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel of a one-year and one-day suspension of Attorney Irvin Joseph Celestine, Jr.
The disciplinary matter is titled ‘In Re: Irvin Joseph Celestine, Jr.’ and involves two cases with DOCKET NO. 22-DB-011 c/w 22-DB-032.
The charges were filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) and alleged that Celestine violated several Rules of Professional Conduct, including 1.1(c), 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4(a), 3.2, 8.1(b) and (c), 8.4(a), and (d).
The Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
The charges relate to Attorney Celestine’s handling of a case involving a car accident and settlement negotiations. He allegedly failed to respond to communications from opposing counsel, did not return executed settlement documents, and did not appear in court on behalf of his client, among other alleged misconduct.
The procedural history of the case states that formal charges were filed on two separate occasions, and while Mr. Celestine responded to the first set of charges, he failed to respond to the second set. The factual allegations in the second set of charges were deemed admitted pursuant to Louisiana Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 11(E)(3). During the investigation and prosecution of these complaints, Attorney Celestine showed total disinterest in his lack of participation and cooperation. He failed to respond to the disciplinary complaint.
The Committee found overwhelming evidence of Attorney Celestine’s violations of the above-cited regulations. In the two cases subject to these complaints, Attorney Celestine was found to have been totally negligent of his duties to his clients. The lack of communication was very apparent. In one of the cases, Attorney Celestine consummated a settlement without the knowledge of his client. In the other case, his client sat in jail for four months without ever having seen his appointed lawyer. Although Attorney Celestine assisted his client during arraignment, his client’s jail time might have been shortened if the plea deal had been discussed earlier.
Attorney Celestine is a public defender and this could have been taken as a mitigating factor but the negligent attitude he showed to his clients uncannily resembled the attitude he displayed to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and the Hearing Committee during the investigation. Despite receiving notices and requests for a response, Mr. Celestine did not provide an initial response or communicate with the ODC. Attorney Celestine’s failure to appropriately respond to the disciplinary complaint; his continued avoidance of the issue; and his refusal to engage with the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel were of great concern which sealed this recommendation.
After reviewing the evidence and testimony, the Committee adopted the ODC’s recommendation of a one-year and one-day suspension of Celestine’s law practice as a fair and appropriate penalty.
The recommendation reads:
“Accordingly, we accept the recommendation of ODC and recommend suspension from the practice of law for one year and one day. We recommend that in compliance with Rule XIX, §10.1, Repondent be assessed with the costs and expenses of these proceedings.”
Irvin Joseph Celestine, Jr. has been practicing law for the past 16 years, having acquired his license in 2007. For more info about Attorney Celestine, please click here.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.