On Friday, October 21, 2022, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ordered the suspension of New Orleans attorney Stavros Panagoulopoulos for numerous violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The case is styled “In Re: Stavros Panagoulopoulos’ and was brought by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC), under case no. 2022-B-0612.
The charges cited rules of professional conduct specifically rules 1.3 (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client), 1.4 (failure to communicate with a client), 1.5(f) (payment of fees in advance of services), 1.7 (conflict of interest: current clients), 1.15(a) (safekeeping property of clients or third persons), 1.15(f) (on client trust accounts, cash withdrawals and checks made payable to “Cash” are prohibited; a lawyer shall subject all client trust accounts to a reconciliation process at least quarterly), 1.16(d) (obligations upon termination of the representation), 8.1(a) (a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter), 8.1(b) (a lawyer shall not knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority), 8.1(c) (failure to cooperate with the the ODC in its investigation), 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act reflecting adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness) and, 8.4(c) (engaging 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:
The respondent was arrested and charged with DWI, careless operation, no driver’s license on person, open container, and expired registration and license plate on March 26, 2014, and was later convicted of reckless operation in May 2016. Respondent, in five different client matters, was alleged to have engaged in numerous instances of violations of the rules of professional conduct. Respondent also failed to maintain client records, failed to reconcile his trust accounts and conversion of client funds which relates to an overdraft.
The Hearing Committee, in its Report, concluded:
“In weighing the aggravating and mitigating factors, the Committee is troubled by Respondent’s multiple counts that resulted in numerous violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and by his initial failure to cooperate with ODC. However, the Committee believes that alcohol abuse is the primary cause that underlies these violations and is encouraged by the continued sobriety of Respondent, his compliance with his JLAP agreement he signed over a year ago, and his committed legal representation of clients as described by the witnesses who credibly testified during the Committee hearing. Compliance during the full term of his JLAP agreement is essential to avoid recurrence of misconduct, and he has organizational issues that could be helped with a practice monitor.”
The hearing committee recommended that Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one year and one day, fully deferred, with conditions.
ODC filed an objection to the hearing committee’s report.
The Disciplinary Board, on the other hand, adopted the hearing committee’s factual findings and agreed with its findings of rule violations. The Board determined that the hearing committee’s recommended sanction is too lenient, thus, recommended a three-year suspension. with all but one year and one day of the suspension deferred, and that respondent pays all costs and expenses of the proceedings.
Both respondent and the ODC filed objections to the board’s recommendation.
With the foregoing facts and discussions, the court ruled against the Respondent in relation to the above-cited Rules of Professional Conduct and recommended an 18-month suspension with all but six months of the suspension deferred.
The Disposition reads:
“Upon review of the findings and recommendations of the hearing committee and the disciplinary board, and considering the record, briefs, and oral argument, it is ordered that Stavros Panagoulopoulos, Louisiana Bar Roll number 33622, be and he hereby is suspended from the practice of law for a period of eighteen months. It is further ordered that all but six months of this suspension shall be deferred. Following the completion of the active portion of his suspension, respondent shall be placed on unsupervised probation for a period of one year, with the condition that any misconduct during this period may be grounds for making the deferred portion of the suspension executory or imposing additional discipline as appropriate. All costs and expenses in the matter are assessed against respondent in accordance with Supreme Court Rule XIX, § 10.1, with legal interest to commence thirty days from the date of finality of this court’s judgment until paid.”
A copy of the original filing can be found here.