On Monday, December 11, 2023, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommended the suspension of Alexandria attorney Toni Rachelle Martin from practicing law for six months, with three months deferred, after finding she violated ethical rules in her representation of a client.

The case is titled ‘In Re: Toni Rachelle Martin’ with case no. 23-DB-049.

The cited misconduct relates to Attorney Martin’s failure to refund unearned client fees promptly in violation of Rules 1.5(f)(5), and 1.16(d) of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct. 

The Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The disciplinary case stemmed from Martin’s representation of David Walker in 2019. Walker hired Martin and paid her $1,500 to handle an interdiction matter regarding his mother, who was suffering from dementia. However, Martin did not file the necessary paperwork before Walker’s mother passed away in April 2020.

When Walker requested a refund of the unearned fee in late 2021, Martin repeatedly delayed returning the money. She claimed the documents were lost during an office move and offered to redo the paperwork. Walker refused and filed a small claims lawsuit against Martin in February 2022, obtaining a judgment for $1,500 plus interest that same month.

Despite agreeing to a payment plan, Martin made only a single $300 payment. She did not fully repay Walker until April 2023, after he filed an ethics complaint and disciplinary counsel interviewed her.

The Board found Martin violated Louisiana’s rules of professional conduct regarding the prompt return of unearned fees. While acknowledging mitigating factors like a prior warning over 10 years ago, the Board recommended a six-month suspension with three months deferred for Martin, citing her indifference to making restitution and refusal to accept responsibility.

In part, the recommendation reads:

“However, we feel that suspension for a year and day is unduly harsh and recommend that Respondent be suspended for six months, with three months deferred. We further recommend that Respondent be placed on probation for a period of one year and that she be ordered to attend LSBA Ethics School and Trust Account.”

According to her website, Attorney Toni Rachelle Martin is a general practice attorney based in Pineville, Louisiana, She acquired her license to practice in the state in 1992.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.