On Friday, December 9, 2022, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ordered the suspension of West Monroe attorney Richmond C. Odom for commingling funds.
The case is styled “In Re: Richmond C. Odom’ and was brought by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC), under case no. 2022-B-0783.
The charges cited Rules 1.15(a) (safekeeping property of clients or third persons), 1.15(g) (failure to create and maintain a client trust account), 5.3(b)(c) (failure to properly supervise a non-lawyer assistant), 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct), 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act reflecting adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer), and 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The rules of professional conduct can be found here.
The following are as alleged and summarized from the filing:
Odom, an attorney licensed to practice law under emeritus status, allegedly engaged in misconduct when upon the death of the settlor of the trust in which he served as a trustee, Odom received $472,613.97 in distributions from the settlor’s accounts, and deposited these funds into his client trust account and began transferring the funds into his law firm operating account. Odom systematically converted $260,334.24 in principal funds belonging to the trust and used the same to pay his credit card bills, rent and salaries.
The filing states:
“Respondent resigned as trustee in April 2006. In October 2006, he provided the income beneficiaries with an accounting and an acknowledgment that he owed restitution in the principal amount of $260,334.24. He also warned that he was in bankruptcy and that any lawsuit filed against him would be subject to an automatic stay. He further warned that if a disciplinary complaint were to be filed against him, he would likely lose his law license, which would render him unable to pay the debt.”
The filing continues:
“Thereafter, respondent, the income beneficiaries, and the successor trustee executed a settlement agreement and general release. Pursuant to that agreement, and in consideration of the $260,334.00 payment, the income beneficiaries agreed to withdraw the disciplinary complaint and dismiss the civil suit with prejudice. By letter to the ODC dated May 25, 2007, Mr. Koch, on behalf of the income beneficiaries, requested that the disciplinary complaint against respondent be withdrawn. He also moved to dismiss the civil suit against respondent.”
The filing further alleges:
“In May 2019, the ODC filed amended and supplemental formal charges against respondent which alleged that he failed to properly supervise a non-lawyer assistant. Respondent filed an answer to the charges in June 2019, in which he denied any criminal conduct, dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. He explained that his paralegal, Tina Cook, had operated, balanced, and managed his client trust account. Respondent indicated that he did not personally balance the firm’s accounts or review the checks and deposits, but instead allowed Ms. Cook to handle these matters.”
The filing additionally notes:
“In 2009, respondent filed a petition for transfer to disability inactive status, asserting that he suffered from health problems and was incapable of defending the formal charges. By order dated September 30, 2009, we granted the petition and transferred respondent to disability inactive status. . . On February 2, 2018, respondent was reinstated to active status, and the pending proceedings resumed.”
The Hearing Committee’s Report concluded that they found Odom to have commingled and mismanaged the funds of the trust and thereby breached his fiduciary duty to his clients. As for Odom’s, misconduct, the Committee recommended that Odom be suspended from the practice of law for one year, fully deferred, with six months of supervised probation, and that he be required to remain in emeritus status for the remainder of his legal career.
ODC filed an objection to the hearing committee’s report.
The Disciplinary Board, on the other hand, recommended a three-year suspension for Odom.
Odom filed an objection to the board’s recommendation.
With the foregoing facts and discussions, the court ruled against Odom in relation to the above-cited Rules of Professional Conduct.
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 Richmond C. Odom, Louisiana Bar Roll number 17339, be and he hereby is suspended from the practice of law for a period of three years. . .”
Odom was also ordered to make restitution to the income beneficiaries in the amount of $27,721.44 plus legal interest. Costs and expenses in the matter were assessed against Odom, with legal interest to commence 30 days from the date of finality of the court’s judgment until paid.
Mr. Richmond C. Odom graduated from Regent University in 1982. He has been licensed in Louisiana. His info can be found on LinkedIn.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.