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Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility v. Fulton

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 24, 2016

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, WYOMING STATE BAR, Petitioner,
v.
JO ANN FULTON, Respondent

         ORDER REINSTATING ATTORNEY TO THE PRACTICE OF LAW

          E. JAMES BURKE, Chief Justice.

          [¶1] This matter came before the Court upon the " Report and Recommendation for Reinstatement," filed herein February 5, 2016, by the Board of Professional Responsibility for the Wyoming State Bar. By order entered April 20, 2006, this Court suspended Respondent from the practice of law for a period of three years. Board of Professional Responsibility, Wyoming State Bar v. Fulton, 2006 WY 51, 133 P.3d 514 (Wyo. 2006). Respondent subsequently sought reinstatement. Now, after a careful review of the Board of Professional Responsibility's Report and Recommendation for Reinstatement and the file, this Court finds that the Report and Recommendation should be approved, confirmed, and adopted by the Court; and that the Respondent, Jo Ann Fulton, should be reinstated to the practice of law. It is, therefore,

          [¶2] ADJUDGED AND ORDERED that the Board of Professional Responsibility's Report and Recommendation for Reinstatement, which is attached hereto and incorporated herein, shall be, and the same hereby is, approved, confirmed, and adopted by this Court; and it is further

          [¶3] ADJUDGED AND ORDERED that the Respondent, Jo Ann Fulton, be, and hereby is, reinstated to the practice of law in Wyoming, effective immediately; and it is further

          [¶4] ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 4(a)(iv) of the Disciplinary Code for the Wyoming State Bar, this Order Reinstating Attorney to the Practice of Law, along with the incorporated Report and Recommendation for Reinstatement, shall be published in the Wyoming Reporter and the Pacific Reporter; and it is further

          [¶5] ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court shall docket this Order Reinstating Attorney to the Practice of Law, along with the incorporated Report and Recommendation for Reinstatement, as a matter coming regularly before this Court as a public record; and it is further

          [¶6] ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court transmit a copy of this Order Reinstating Attorney to the Practice of Law to the members of the Board of Professional Responsibility and to the clerks of the appropriate courts of the State of Wyoming.

          [¶7] DATED this 24th day of February, 2016.

         In the matter of JO ANN FULTON, WSB No. 5-2686, Respondent

         D-06-0003

         BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT STATE OF WYOMING

         FEB 5, 2016

         WSB No. 2015-127

         REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION FOR REINSTATEMENT

         Judith A.W. Studer, Chair

         The Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) convened on the 25th day of January, 2016, to consider the Stipulated Motion for Reinstatement submitted by Bar Counsel, Mark W. Gifford, Respondent, Jo Ann Fulton, and her counsel, C.M. Aron. The Board having reviewed the stipulation, the supporting affidavit of Respondent, the procedural history of the case as set forth in attachments to the stipulated motion, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, finds, concludes and recommends as follows:

         Findings

         1. On December 14, 2015, Respondent filed a Verified Petition for Reinstatement. The present petition follows an unsuccessful effort by Respondent in 2012 to gain reinstatement after a three year suspension ordered by the Wyoming Supreme Court on April 20, 2006. The following is a detailed statement of the procedural history of this matter:

         2. Respondent was admitted to the Wyoming State Bar in 1990 and practiced law continuously in Wyoming until 2006, when disciplinary proceedings initiated in 2005 culminat-ed with an order suspending Respondent from the practice of law for three years, commencing April 20, 2006. Board of Professional Responsibility v. Fulton, 2006 WY 51, 133 P.3d 514 (Wyo. 2006).

         3. The order of suspension approved, confirmed and adopted the BPR's report and recommendation filed March 7, 2006, which followed a disciplinary hearing before the BPR held February 28, 2006.

         4. Two separate formal charges were considered at the February 28, 2006, hearing. The first, No. 2005-02, involved Respondent's conduct in the handling of a contingent fee mat-ter in violation of Rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.4. 1.5, 1.15, 3.1 and 8.4 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct. Fulton, supra, 133 P.3d at 516. The second, No. 2005-029. involved Respond-ent's conduct in having direct contact with a party represented by counsel in violation of Rule 4.2. Id. at 517. In both matters, the BPR determined that Respondent failed to file an answer to the formal charge, resulting in orders of default and setting of a consolidated sanctions hearing. Id. at 515. Respondent appeared and represented herself at the sanctions hearing. Id. at 514.

         5. The contingent fee matter that led to the formal charge in No. 2005-02 was a per-sonal injury case in which Respondent represented the plaintiffs. In that matter, Respondent was found to have engaged in the following professional misconduct:

a. Respondent did not provide her clients with a copy of the Rules Governing Contingency Fees for Members of the Wyoming State Bar as required by those rules, and she charged her client for paralegal fees that should have been part of the contingency fee. Such conduct was found to violate Rule 1.5.
b. Respondent used settlement funds to purchase a two-year certificate of deposit in the name of her law firm and did not provide her clients with documentation of that purchase when they requested it. Respondent issued her clients checks drawn on her operating account for a portion of the net settlement proceeds, but the checks were returned for insufficient funds. Respondent later replaced them with a Cashier's Check for the agreed settlement amount. Respondent recognizes and acknowledges that such conduct violated Rule 1.15. The BPR also found, and Respondent recognizes and acknowledges, that her failure to respond to the clients' request for information was a violation of Rule 1.4.
c. The BPR found that Respondent told her clients interest on settlement funds was not taxable if Respondent kept those funds, and found that Respondent also filed a lawsuit that had no merit. Such conduct was found to violate Rule 1.1. The filing ...

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