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Board of Professional Responsibility v. Stinson

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 24, 2016

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, WYOMING STATE BAR, Petitioner,
v.
LAURENCE W. STINSON, WSB No. 6-2918, Respondent.

ORDER SUSPENDING ATTORNEY FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW

E. JAMES BURKE Chief Justice

[¶1] This matter came before the Court upon a "Report and Recommendation for Suspension, " filed herein December 9, 2015, by the Board of Professional Responsibility for the Wyoming State Bar. After a careful review of the Report and Recommendation; the attached "Affidavit of Costs and Expenses;" Respondent's February 10, 2016 letter (in which he informs the Court he does not file exceptions to the report); and the file, this Court finds the Report and Recommendation for Suspension should be approved, confirmed, and adopted by the Court and that Respondent, Laurence W. Stinson, should be suspended from the practice of law for a period of nine months. It is, therefore, [¶2] ADJUDGED AND ORDERED that the Board of Professional Responsibility's Report and Recommendation for Suspension, 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, as a result of the conduct set forth in the Report and Recommendation for Suspension, Respondent, Laurence W. Stinson, shall be, and hereby is, suspended from the practice of law for a period of nine months, beginning March 7, 2016; and it is further

[¶4] ORDERED that Respondent shall comply with Section 22 of the Disciplinary Code for the Wyoming State Bar. That Section governs the duties of disbarred and suspended attorneys; and it is further

[¶5] ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 26 of the Disciplinary Code for the Wyoming State Bar, Laurence W. Stinson shall reimburse the Wyoming State Bar the amount of $25, 247.99, representing the costs incurred in handling this matter, as well as pay an administrative fee of $500.00, by paying the total amount of $25, 747.99 to the Clerk of the Board of Professional Responsibility on or before June 1, 2016; and it is further

[¶6] ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 4(c) of the Disciplinary Code for the Wyoming State Bar, Laurence W. Stinson, on or before June 1, 2016, shall make restitution to John McClure and Robin McClure in the amount of $11, 641.17, which represents the attorneys' fees and costs the McClures incurred in defending the New Dehli lawsuit; and it is further

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

[¶8] ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court shall docket this Order Suspending Attorney from the Practice of Law, along with the Report and Recommendation for Suspension, as a matter coming regularly before this Court as a public record; and it is further

[¶9] ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court cause a copy of the Order Suspending Attorney from the Practice of Law to be served upon Respondent Laurence W. Stinson.

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

BY THE COURT:[*]

BEFORE THE WYOMING SUPREME COURT STATE OF WYOMING

In the matter of LAURENCE W. STINSON, WSB # 6-2918, Respondent.

WSB No. 2014-102

DEC - 9, 2015

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION FOR SUSPENSION

Jenifer E. Scoggin, Chair Board of Professional Responsibility

THIS MATTER having come before the Board of Professional Responsibility (Board) for hearing September 21-25, 2015, at the Cody Hotel, 232 West Yellowstone Avenue, Cody, Wyoming, and the Wyoming State Bar appearing by and through Mark W. Gifford, Bar Counsel, and Respondent, Laurence W. Stinson, appearing in person and representing himself, and the Board having heard the testimony of witnesses and having reviewed the exhibits received into evidence at the hearing, and being fully advised in the premises, FINDS, CONCLUDES and RECOMMENDS:

Findings of Fact

1. Upon commencement of the hearing, Respondent requested and was provided an opportunity to voir dire each member of the Board to determine whether any member harbored bias or prejudice against Respondent. After conducting such voir dire, Respondent made no objection to the Board or any individual member, and the hearing proceeded.

2. Respondent has been licensed to practice law in the State of Wyoming since 1995, and has maintained, and continues to maintain, a law practice in Park County, Wyoming. This matter arises from certain disputes that arose between Respondent and two former clients, John and Robin McClure, from whom Respondent purchased a lot in a residential subdivision in Cody, Wyoming, in 2007.

3. At the time of the lot purchase, the McClures owned and operated McClure Custom Builders, Inc., a company that performed construction work in Park County, Wyoming. John McClure was a licensed general contractor and had provided construction work at Respondent's residence and at his office in Cody. Robin McClure was a licensed real estate agent.

4. The McClures owned an unimproved lot ("Lot 10") adjacent to their home on Ina Avenue in the Meadows Subdivision in Cody.

5. In early 2007, Respondent talked with the McClures about purchasing Lot 10 and having the McClures build a house for him on the lot.

6. Seeking legal advice regarding business planning and estate issues, the McClures met with Respondent on February 20, 2007. On March 31, 2007, Respondent sent the McClures an invoice in the amount of $150.00 for a one-hour meeting on February 20, 2007. BC-1. Respondent's billing records indicate that the McClures next sought legal advice from Respondent on September 11, 2007, when they requested his assistance in preparing an addendum to a construction contract for one of the McClures' construction projects unrelated to Respondent. BC-9.

7. Prior to Respondent's purchase of Lot 10 from the McClures, the McClures provided Respondent with several books containing various house designs. Respondent selected a design he liked, and asked the McClures to order a set of plans for him.

8. In conjunction with ordering the plans for the house design selected by Respondent, the McClures purchased an online budget tool from Cobs Homes which would generate a "Cost to Build Budget" based upon square footage, materials, cost of the land, and other factors. On March 20, 2007, the McClures provided Respondent with a copy of the Cost to Build Budget, which indicated a total cost to build of $370, 944.00, inclusive of a land cost of $65, 000.00.

9. On March 29, 2007, Respondent executed a written Purchase Agreement for Lot 10 (BC-2), agreeing to purchase the lot from the McClures for $65, 000.00. In the Purchase Agreement, Respondent was identified as "BUYER" and the McClures were identified as "SELLER." The Purchase Agreement provided, among other things:

• "SELLER Robin O. McClure is an active and licensed real estate agent with the State of Wyoming for Worthington Realty of Wyoming, LLC."
• "BUYER is an attorney with the law firm of Bonner Stinson, PC, and has, in that capacity, represented Seller or their interests. SELLER acknowledges that neither BUYER or his law firm is representing the seller herein, and the same are not protecting SELLER'S interest in this transaction. SELLER and BUYER further acknowledge and agree that the sale price agreed herein was the asking price set by SELLER and was accepted by BUYER without further negotiation."
• "5. There are no verbal agreements between BUYER and SELLER or either party's agent to modify terms and conditions of this contract.. . . [T]here are no representations by SELLER or its AGENT not included in this Agreement."

10. Notwithstanding the Purchase Agreement's written disclaimer of additional verbal agreements between the parties, Respondent contends and testified that he entered into the Purchase Agreement based upon the McClures' representation that the house selected by Respondent could be built on Lot 10 for $400, 000.00 or less, inclusive of the $65, 000.00 cost of the lot. The McClures deny making such representations, and state that the Cost to Build Budget was merely a "starting point" for further discussions regarding construction of a house on Lot 10.

11. Respondent's purchase of Lot 10 closed on April 26, 2007, with Respondent paying the purchase price and receiving a deed in return. BC-3.

12. On May 8, 2007, Robin McClure emailed a draft contract entitled "SHORT-FORM FIXED PRICE AGREEMENT" to Respondent. BC-4.

13. In order to arrive at an accurate cost estimate for constructing the home on Lot 10, it was necessary to have an engineer prepare a foundation design for the structure before bids could be obtained from subcontractors. In May 2007 John McClure engaged a professional engineer to design a foundation for the house. LWS-5.

14. Sometime after May 8, 2007 (but before Respondent sent his July 8, 2007, email set forth in ¶ 15 below), Robin McClure sent the following undated email to Respondent:

I wanted to send you another copy of this email. I made two grammar mistakes that I needed to change anyway!
This email contain some important items for your home.
These are costs to build your home.
• Utility will add approximately 115.5 sq ft (main level 1944 total), basement 1944 sq ft with a total of approx. 3888 sq. ft.
• At $400k, that is less than $103 sq ft. Now if you change the floor plan or whatever you decide to do, it isn't going to effect the price per sq ft much one way or another (plus or minus a toilet and sink) as long as we keep from moving the roof.
• $165 sq ft for 1944 sq ft = $320, 760, which with the estimates or bids we have received is not going to happen.
• Cost for structure to be built as the plans read (original) w/ an unfinished basement.
o Allowances: for main level
■ $11, 000 allowance for appliances, to include: dishwasher, gas cook top and oven, hood, refrigerator, washer & dryer, freezer;
■ $22, 000 (L & M) allowance flooring and wall tile.
■ $3, 500 for lights
■ total allowance amount $36, 500
■ cost (not including allowance) $339, 200 ($375, 700 total before basement is completed) The allowance is for you to spend as you like, but anything over and it is on you. I gave you big allowances.
• Costs to finish basement. $10, 000 allowance for flooring and lighting fixtures
o $30 sq ft to include 3 egress windows and no other windows or natural light source during the new construction phase.
o Frame, rough-in plumbing and electric, insulate, drywall, mud, tape, texture, paint, trim cut, finish bathroom, lighting for basement, and flooring completed for $58, 500.
Thanks for reading this and when you have a couple minutes . . .
Robin
p.s. Do you by chance have the ...

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