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Board of Professional Responsibility v. Goddard

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 31, 2018

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, WYOMING STATE BAR, Petitioner,
v.
GREG L. GODDARD, WSB # 5-1252, Respondent.

          SUBMITTED this 19th of April, 2018.

          ORDER OF SUSPENSION

          E. JAMES BURKE CHIEF JUSTICE

         [¶1] This matter came before the Court upon the "Board of Professional Responsibility's Report and Recommendation for Order of 90 Day Suspension, " filed herein April 24, 2018. 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, Greg L. Goddard, should be suspended for his conduct. It is, therefore, [¶2] ADJUDGED AND ORDERED that the "Board of Professional Responsibility's Report and Recommendation for Order of 90 Day 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, effective June 6, 2018, Greg L. Goddard is suspended from the practice of law for 45 days. That number represents a suspension of 90 days with credit for 45 days served, based on time served in federal custody; and it is further

         [¶4] ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 25 of the Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, Mr. Goddard shall reimburse the Wyoming State Bar the amount of $6, 927.54, representing the costs incurred in handling this matter, as well as pay the administrative fee of $750.00. Mr. Goddard shall pay the total amount of $7, 677.54 to the Wyoming State Bar on or before October 1, 2018; and it is further

         [¶5] ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court shall docket this Order of Suspension, along with the incorporated Report and Recommendation for Order of 90 Day Suspension, as a matter coming regularly before this Court as a public record; and it is further

         [¶6] ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 9(b) of the Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, this Order of Suspension, along with the incorporated Report and Recommendation for Order of 90 Day Suspension, shall be published in the Wyoming Reporter and the Pacific Reporter; and it is further

         [¶7] ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court cause a copy of this Order of Suspension to be served upon Respondent, Greg L. Goddard.

         [¶8] DATED this 31st day of May, 2018.

         BPR No. 2016-28

          BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION FOR ORDER OF 90 DAY SUSPENSION

          JEFFREY A. DONNEL CHAIRMAN

         THIS MATTER came before the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Wyoming State Bar (the "Board") on March 26, 2018, for a disciplinary hearing pursuant to Rule 15(b), Wyo.R.Disc.Proc. The entire board was in attendance. The Wyoming State Bar was represented by Bar Counsel. Mark W. Gifford. Respondent was present in person as was his counsel, Scott E. Ortiz. Bar Counsel's Exhibits BC-1 through BC-30 and BC-32 through BC-61 were received into evidence, as were Respondent's Exhibits 1 and 25.

         Based upon the exhibits received into evidence, the testimony of witnesses and with due consideration given to the statements of counsel, the Board unanimously FINDS, CONCLUDES and RECOMMENDS as follows:

         Findings of Fact

         1. The Board accepts the parties' pre-hearing stipulation and renders the following findings based upon the stipulation, Respondent's supporting affidavit of factual basis, and the testimony and exhibits received into evidence at the hearing:

a. Respondent is a licensed attorney in the State of Wyoming, Bar #5-1252. Respondent has been licensed to practice in Wyoming since 1972, and maintains an active practice of law in Buffalo, Wyoming,
b. This case stems from Respondent's representation of Stacey Ridley and her desire to file personal bankruptcy. Respondent's representation of Ms. Ridley originally began in 2011 but, due to a number of personal issues, it was very difficult for Ms. Ridley to follow through with the requirements of filing a bankruptcy petition. After Ms. Ridley stopped coming to Respondent's office for scheduled appointments, and refused to sign necessary paperwork, Respondent ultimately closed the file for a year or more. In 2015, Ms. Ridley renewed her interest in filing a bankruptcy petition.
c. Ms. Ridley's bankruptcy petition was ultimately drafted and ready for filing in September 2015. This generally coincided with a partial distribution of assets from the Estate of Charles Evitt. In the Evitt probate proceeding, Respondent was representing Ms. Ridley's mother, Mary Jo Evitt. Ms. Evitt was the surviving spouse, who had elected against the terms of her husband's will. Ms. Ridley was Charles Evitt's stepdaughter. In his will, Mr. Evitt left Ms. Ridley a cash bequest of $25, 000.
d. When preparing the petition, Respondent knowingly failed to list the $25, 000 bequest as a contingent asset on Ms. Ridley's bankruptcy schedule of assets.
e. One of Ms. Ridley's creditors was aware of the $25, 000 bequest in the will, and raised the issue with the bankruptcy trustee. Within a couple of months after this notification, the $25, 000 was provided to the bankruptcy trustee and ultimately distributed to Ms. Ridley's creditors.
f. The Representative of the Office of the United States Trustee, Daniel Morse, had serious concerns about this sequence of events, and as a result, filed a complaint against Ms. Ridley, based on the failure to list the $25, 000 bequest.
g. After reviewing the complaint from the bankruptcy trustee, Respondent agreed, via signed stipulation, to a two (2) year suspension from practicing in bankruptcy court. Respondent also agreed to return any fees he received from Ms. Ridley, (or her family members), for the work Respondent performed during the bankruptcy proceeding. Respondent farther agreed to provide to the bankruptcy trustee verification of his self-report of his actions to Bar Counsel.
h. Subsequent to Respondent's suspension in bankruptcy court, Respondent was notified that the U.S. Attorney's Office intended to seek an indictment charging Respondent with a bankruptcy fraud offense.
i. After negotiations with the U.S. Attorney's office, a plea agreement was reached wherein Respondent entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor offense of contempt of court. Part of the plea agreement also required Respondent to spend 45 days in jail as part of a stipulated sentence. This plea agreement was accepted by Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin and sentence was ordered.
j. Respondent began his jail sentence in early December 2016, until ordered to be released by the Federal Marshal's office in January 2017.
k. The failure on Respondent's part to list the $25, 000 contingent asset initially jeopardized Ms. Ridley's chance to receive a discharge through the bankruptcy court. Respondent obtained and paid for new counsel for Ms. Ridley. After a hearing in bankruptcy court on February 23, 2017, Judge Parker granted Ms. Ridley her discharge of debt.

         2. Respondent has unconditionally admitted that his conduct in the Ridley bankruptcy matter violated 8.4(b) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects) and 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation). The parties have stipulated that these admitted violations may be deemed established by clear and convincing evidence, and the Board so finds.

         3. Pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the charges of violating Rules 3.3 (candor toward the tribunal), 4.1(a) (false statement of material fact) and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) are dismissed.

         4. The Board having accepted the parties' stipulation with respect to Respondent's violation of Rules 8.4(b) and 8.4(c), the hearing proceeded with the presentation of testimony and exhibits relevant to the four factors set forth in Rule 15(b)(3)(D), Wyo.R.Disc.Proc, for the purpose of determining the appropriate sanction for Respondent's misconduct. These factors are:

(i) Whether the lawyer has violated a duty owed to a client, to the public, to the legal system, or to the profession;
(ii) Whether the lawyer acted intentionally, knowingly, or negligently;
(iii) The amount of the actual or potential injury caused by the ...

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