BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, WYOMING STATE BAR, Petitioner,
JOHN JAMES LEARNED, WSB# 6-4150, 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 16, 2017, 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 John James Learned 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 John James Learned
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
ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 25 of the
Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, Mr. Learned 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. Learned
shall pay the total amount of $800.00 to the Wyoming State
Bar on or before December 1, 2017; 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 John James Learned.
DATED this 25th day of October,
THE SUPREME COURT STATE OF WYOMING
matter of JOHN JAMES LEARNED, WSB# 6-4150, Respondent.
AND RECOMMENDATION FOR ORDER OF PUBLIC CENSURE
MATTER came before the Board of Professional Responsibility
on the 10th day of October, 2017, 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 has been licensed to practice in Wyoming since
2007, and maintains an active practice of law in Laramie,
May 1, 2017, the Office of Bar Counsel received a letter from
the Honorable Catherine R. Rogers, First Judicial District
Court Judge, reporting a possible violation of the Wyoming
Rules of Professional Conduct by Respondent. The incident
which gave rise to Judge Rogers' report was the finding
by Judge Rogers that Respondent had charged and received a
$4, 000.00 fee payment from the personal representative of an
estate without obtaining the Court's approval as required
by W.S. § 2-7-805(a). Judge Rogers referred the matter
to Bar Counsel as a possible violation of Rule 1.5 of the
Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct. Judge Rogers also
expressed additional concerns regarding Respondent's lack
of diligence in the matter.
the underlying probate matter, Estate of Charlotte
Glasper, Docket No. 46-272, Respondent filed a petition
to appoint Elizabeth Thrower as personal representative of
the Estate on July 11, 2013. Respondent did not obtain the
order appointing Ms. Thrower as personal representative until
November 22, 2013, a delay of more than nine months. Once the
order appointing the personal representative was issued,
Respondent did not obtain letters testamentary until March
21, 2014, more than eight months after Respondent petitioned
the court for appointment of a personal representative. In
addition, Respondent failed to comply with the following
statutory requirements in the administration of the Glasper
• Respondent did not publish the notice required by W.S.
• Respondent did not file timely allowances or
rejections of creditors' claims that were submitted in
November and December 2013.
• Respondent did not file the inventory required by W.S.
§ 2-7-403 to be Filed within 120 days after appointment
of the personal representative.
• Respondent did not submit the report of appraisal
required by W.S. § 2-7-404 to be filed within 120 days
after timely filing of the inventory.
• Respondent did not complete the administration of the
estate within one year after appointment of the personal
representative as required by W.S. § 2-7-801.
• Respondent did not submit the final report required by
W.S. § 2-7-806 to be filed within one year after
appointment of the personal representative.
addition, Respondent was aware that the personal
representative sold the estate's largest asset, the
house, without obtaining the requisite approvals from the
court (see W.S. 2-7-614 et seq.). In a
"Motion to Set Hearing on Petition to Appoint Personal
Representative" filed November 20, 2013, Respondent
acknowledged that the imminent sale of the house "may
have been lacking conformity to law, " but Respondent
did nothing to address that problem.
the course of the representation, Ms. Thrower made periodic
payments which were deposited into Respondent's trust
account. Respondent received an initial retainer payment in
the amount of $500.00 from Ms. Thrower which was deposited
into Respondent's trust account on April 15, 2013. He
received additional payments that were deposited into his
trust ac- count in the following amounts on the following
dates: $595.00 on July 16, 2013; $1, 000.00 on February 26,
2014; and $3, 000.00 on April 24, 2014, resulting in total
payments of $5, 095.00. Those payments were applied against
Respondent's invoices in the matter until Ms. Thrower
terminated Respondent's representation and hired other
counsel in October 2014. At that time, there remained a
balance in trust for Ms. Thrower of $697.19, which Respondent
eventually refunded to the Glasper Estate.
July 2015, after Ms. Thrower had terminated Respondent's
representation and retained a different lawyer, an
"Interim Report and Accounting" was filed which
disclosed that Ms. Thrower had paid Respondent a retainer of
$1, 000.00 on February 24, 2014, and an additional retainer
of $3, 000.00 on April 24, 2014. The Interim Report also
indicated that Respondent had returned $697.19 of the
retainer to the Glasper Estate, 7. At some point after the
Interim Report was filed, Ms. Thrower was removed as personal
representative and replaced by Donna Cowan.
April 4, 2017, Judge Rogers issued an "Order to Show
Cause Why Former Attorney for Former Personal Representative
Should Not Be Held in Violation of W.S. § 2-7-805."
The Order referred to the retainer payments that were
disclosed in the Interim Report and suggested that
Respondent's acceptance of such payments would appear to
violate W.S. § 2-7-805(a), which provides, "No fees
shall be paid to the personal representative or the attorney
for the estate except upon order of the court." A show
cause hearing was set for April 25, 2017.
Respondent appeared at the hearing and expressed confusion
over the payments, stating, "[A]pparently somebody used
money to pay me that they shouldn't have used."
Respondent conceded that this was his "first foray into
doing work in the probate code, " At the conclusion of
the hearing, Judge Rogers ruled from the bench that
Respondent had violated W.S. § 2-7-805(a) and that ...