On Thursday, September 29, 2022, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Arizona ordered the reprimand of Phoenix attorney J. Mark Heldenbrand for failure to adequately supervise employees and improper fee arrangement.

The case is styled as ‘In the Matter of a Member of the State Bar of Arizona, J. Mark Heldenbrand’ and was brought by the State Bar of Arizona, under case no. 21-2105.

The charges cited  Rule 42, Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct ER 1.5 (fees), ER 5.3 (responsibilities regarding nonlawyers), and ER 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). 

The Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The following are as alleged and summarized from the filing:

The complainant, who used to work with the respondent from January 2014 to June 2021, accused respondent and the process server of Respondent’s law firm of conspiring to upcharge debtors with fictitious process service expenses and obtaining court judgments that included those expenses. Respondent denied such allegations, claiming he already took corrective action in September 2020 upon learning the irregularities in affidavits of service of process and his invoices to his firm.

The State Bar investigated those charges and concluded that there is no clear and convincing evidence showing that respondent orchestrated or participated in the fraudulent scheme. The respondent agreed he negligently failed to supervise his employees properly to avoid the costs and billing irregularities. In addition, the complainant also alleged that Respondent charged creditor clients generally a 40% contingent fee for cases not requiring litigation and 50% contingent fees in litigated cases. Further, the complainant alleged that respondent does not inform the courts that he charges a contingency fee in addition to court-awarded lodestar fees, and he does not tell the courts that he keeps all the fees. The Commission found respondent’s fee agreement was inherently improper, as it allowed for double recovery of fees.

According to the Decision Accepting Agreement for Discipline by Consent:

“On September 26, 2022, the parties filed an Agreement for Discipline by Consent (“Agreement”) pursuant to Rule 57(a), Ariz. R. Sup. Ct. The State Bar of Arizona is represented in this matter by Senior Bar Counsel David L. Sandweiss, Respondent J. Mark Heldenbrand is represented by Kerry A. Hodges.”

The Decision continues:

“Contingent on approval of the proposed form of discipline, Mr. Heldenbrand has voluntarily waived his right to an adjudicatory hearing, as well as all motions, defenses, objections, or requests that could be asserted.”

With the foregoing facts and discussions, the presiding disciplinary judge accepted the Agreement for Discipline by Consent.

The Disposition reads:

“IT IS ORDERED that Respondent J. Mark Heldenbrand, Bar No. 011790, is reprimanded for his conduct in violation of the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct, as outlined in the consent documents.”

Respondent was also ordered placed on probation with terms including LOMAP (full assessment and monitoring), to complete three CLE programs of at least three hours on topics: ethically collecting fees; candor to the tribunal, and an ER 5.3-related program. Respondent shall also commit no further violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Costs and expenses in the amount of $1,200.00 were also assessed against Respondent and ordered to be paid within 30 days of the Judgment and Order.

According to LinkedIn, Mr. Heldenbrand is the owner of J. Mark Heldenbrand, PC, and a practicing attorney serving Arizona. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Heldenbrand has been licensed in Arizona.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.