BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, WYOMING STATE BAR, Petitioner,
ROBERT W. HIATT JR., WSB # 6-2951, Respondent.
ORDER OF PUBLIC CENSURE
JAMES BURKE Chief Justice
This matter came before the Court upon a
"Report and Recommendation for Order of Public Censure,
" filed herein October 18, 2016, by the Board of
Professional Responsibility for the Wyoming State Bar,
pursuant to Rule 12 of the Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary
Procedure (stipulated discipline). The Court, after a careful
review of the Board of Professional Responsibility's
Report and Recommendation and the file, finds that the Report
and Recommendation should be approved, confirmed, and adopted
by the Court, and that Respondent Robert W. Hiatt, Jr. should
be publicly censured for his conduct. It is, therefore,
[¶2] ADJUDGED AND ORDERED that the
Board of Professional Responsibility's "Report and
Recommendation for Order of Public Censure, " 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
ADJUDGED AND ORDERED that Robert W. Hiatt,
Jr. is hereby publicly censured for his conduct, which is
described in the Report and Recommendation for Order of
Public Censure. The Wyoming State Bar may issue a press
release consistent with the one set out in the Report and
Recommendation for Order of Public Censure; and it is further
ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 25 of the
Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, Mr. Hiatt shall
reimburse the Wyoming State Bar the amount of $50.00,
representing the costs incurred in handling this matter, as
well as pay the administrative fee of $750.00. Mr. Hiatt
shall pay the total amount of $800.00 to the Wyoming State
Bar on or before December 1, 2016; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court shall
docket this Order of Public Censure, along with the
incorporated Report and Recommendation for Order of Public
Censure, as a matter coming regularly before this Court as a
public record; and it is further
ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 9(b) of the
Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, this Order of Public
Censure, along with the incorporated Report and
Recommendation for Order of Public Censure, shall be
published in the Wyoming Reporter and the Pacific Reporter;
and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court cause a
copy of this Order of Public Censure to be served upon
Respondent Robert W. Hiatt, Jr.
DATED this 1st day of November,
THE SUPREME COURT STATE OF WYOMING
matter of ROBERT W. HIATT JR., WSB # 6-2951, Respondent.
AND RECOMMENDATION FOR ORDER OF PUBLIC CENSURE
A.W. STUDER, CHAIR
MATTER came before the Board of Professional Responsibility
on the 11th day of October, 2016, for
consideration of the Stipulation for Public Censure submitted
pursuant to Rules 9 and 12 of the Wyoming Rules of
Disciplinary Procedure, and the Board having reviewed the
Stipulation, the accompanying affidavit of factual basis and
being fully advised in the premises, FINDS, CONCLUDES and
RECOMMENDS as follows.
Respondent was admitted to practice in Wyoming in 1998, and
maintains a law practice in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
matter arises from a complaint which was submitted to Bar
Counsel in February 2016 by Respondent's former client,
James M. Snyder ("JMS"). JMS was first represented
by Riverton lawyer, John Blomstrom, in a 2013 divorce action
in Fremont County in which JMS's wife was (and continues
to be) represented by Collin Hopkins of Riverton
("Hopkins"). A stipulated decree of divorce was
entered in August 2013 and Blomstrom subsequently withdrew.
Problems arose almost immediately with respect to JMS's
visitation with the parties' minor son. JMS is an
oilfield worker and spends much of his time out of state. On
October 31, 2013, Hopkins filed a motion to suspend
visitation on behalf of the mother.
hired Respondent in February 2014, signing a "Request
for Contract for Legal Services" re: "modification
of decree of divorce change in custody within the legal
systems of the Ninth Judicial District Court, Fremont County,
Wyoming." The document provided for a
"non-refundable flat fee of $5, 000.00."
Respondent commenced efforts to earn the fee in early April
2014 when Respondent filed a Petition to Modify Decree of
Divorce and related pleadings on behalf of JMS. In June 2014,
Hopkins filed acceptance of service on behalf of the ex-wife.
In July 2014, Hopkins filed an answer and counterclaim on
behalf of the ex-wife; Respondent filed an answer to
counterclaim on behalf of JMS.
Nearly five months later, on December 24, 2014, Respondent
filed a motion for appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL)
for the minor son, along with a request for status
conference. A status conference was held on January 26, 2015.
Judge Norman Young recommended the appointment of Riverton
lawyer, Aaron Vincent, to serve as the minor child's GAL.
However, Respondent failed to follow through on getting
Vincent appointed as GAL.
Between February 2014 and March 2015 there were numerous
emails exchanged by JMS and Respondent regarding various
subjects, with JMS becoming increasingly agitated as time
dragged on with no apparent progress on the modification
petition for which JMS hired Respondent and for which
Respondent accepted a $5, 000.00 "non-refundable flat
April 2015, JMS hired Thermopolis lawyer, Hope Gebes, to
represent him. Gebes wrote to Respondent requesting the file
and a refund of the unearned portion of the $5, 000 retainer.
Respondent refused to release the file until JMS provided
written notification of termination. On June 1, 2015, JMS
sent an email to Respondent confirming termination and
requested that the file be sent to Gebes.
July 7, 2015, Respondent filed a motion to withdraw.
Respondent's motion was granted two days later.
July 13, 2015, Gebes wrote to Respondent, again requesting
the file and a refund of the balance of the retainer.
Respondent did not respond.
August 4, 2015, JMS sent the following email to Respondent:
"Mr. Hiatt this is James Snyder my new attorneys have
repeatedly asked you for all my paperwork and the rest of my
refund from the retainer I gave you in full, so now I'm
asking you to send these things to my attorneys asap."
Respondent did not respond.
Respondent has conditionally admitted to multiple violations
of Rule 1.3 (diligence) and 1.4 (communication with client)
of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct. Respondent has
also conditionally admitted to multiple violations of Rule
1.16(d) (termination of representation) in not responding to
numerous requests from JMS and his new counsel following
Respondent's discharge by JMS, and in not refunding the
unearned portion of the $5, 000.00 fee. As part of the
stipulated resolution of this matter, Respondent has agreed
to refund $3, 000.00 to JMS.