BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, WYOMING STATE BAR, Petitioner,
MICHAEL J. PEARCE, WSB # 7-4838, Respondent.
ORDER OF ONE-YEAR SUSPENSION
MICHAEL K. DAVIS Chief Justice
1] This matter came before the Court upon the Board of
Professional Responsibility's "Report and
Recommendation for One-Year Suspension," filed herein
July 30, 2019, pursuant to Rule 12 of the Wyoming Rules of
Disciplinary Procedure (stipulated discipline). After a
careful review of the Report and Recommendation and the file,
the Court finds the Report and Recommendation should be
approved, confirmed and adopted by the Court, and that
Michael J. Pearce should be suspended from the practice of
law for one year. It is, therefore, [¶ 2]
ADJUDGED AND ORDERED that the Board of
Professional Responsibility's "Report and
Recommendation for One-Year 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
ADJUDGED AND ORDERED that, as a result of
the conduct set forth in the Report and Recommendation for
One-Year Suspension, Respondent Michael J. Pearce shall be,
and hereby is, suspended from the practice of law for one
year, with the period of suspension to begin August 22, 2019;
and it is further
4] ORDERED that, during the period of
suspension. Respondent shall comply with the requirements of
the Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, particularly the
requirements found in Rule 21 of those rules. That rule
governs the duties of disbarred and suspended attorneys; and
it is further
5] ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 25 of the
Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, Respondent shall
reimburse the Wyoming State Bar the amount of $100.00, which
represents the costs incurred in handling this matter, as
well as pay an administrative fee of $1, 500.00. Respondent
shall pay the total amount of $1, 600.00 to the Wyoming State
Bar on or before January 1. 2020. If Respondent fails to make
payment in the time allotted, execution may issue on the
award; and it is further
6] ORDERED that the Wyoming State Bar is
authorized to issue the stipulated press release contained in
the "Report and Recommendation for One-Year
Suspension''; and it is further
7] ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court
shall docket this "Order of One-Year Suspension,"
along with the incorporated "Report and Recommendation
for One-Year Suspension" as a matter coming regularly
before this Court as a public record; and it is further
8] ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 9(b) of
the Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, this
"'Order of One-Year Suspension," along with the
incorporated "Report and Recommendation for One-Year
Suspension" shall be published in the Wyoming Reporter
and the Pacific Reporter; and it is further
9] ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court
cause a copy of this "Order of One-Year Suspension"
to be served upon Respondent Michael J. Pearce.
10] DATED this 14th day of
matter of Michael J. Pearce, WSB#7-4838 Respondent
2018-073 & WSB No. 2019-039
AND RECOMMENDATION FOR ONE-YEAR SUSPENSION
MATTER came before the Board of Professional Responsibility
("Board" or "BPR) on the 22nd day
of July, 2019, for consideration of the parties'
stipulation for a one-year suspension 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 conditional admission
("Affidavit") and being fully advised in the
premises, FINDS, CONCLUDES and RECOMMENDS as follows.
Respondent has been licensed to practice law in Wyoming since
2012 and maintains a solo practice in Laramie, Wyoming.
Respondent is the subject of two disciplinary complaints, one
from a client and one in the form of a report submitted by
the presiding judge in a different matter.
the underlying matter involved in No. 2018-073,
Respondent's failure to exercise competence and diligence
in representing a client in a personal injury matter resulted
in the client's case being dismissed with prejudice.
Respondent admits that he violated Rules 1.1 (competence),
1.3 (diligence), 1.4 (communication with client), and 8.4(c)
(misleading statements) in representing the client.
the underlying matter involved in No. 2019-039, Respondent
was issued a written reprimand by the presiding district
court judge for violation of numerous provisions of a
scheduling order and for numerous violations of Rule 801
(standards of professional behavior) of the Uniform Rules for
District Courts of the State of Wyoming. Respondent admits
that he violated Rules 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (diligence),
3.4(c) (failure to follow the rules of the tribunal) and
8.4(c) (misleading statements) in the conduct for which the
presiding judge reprimanded him.
WSB No. 2018-073, Respondent represented the plaintiff in a
personal injury matter against parties allegedly responsible
for a motor vehicle accident.
Defense counsel moved to dismiss the case without prejudice
after learning that most of the plaintiffs medical expenses
arising from the motor vehicle accident were paid by
workers' compensation. Defense counsel's motion was
based upon Respondent's failure to provide notice of the
lawsuit to the Workers' Compensation Division Director
and to the Attorney General as required by W.S. §
Respondent did not contest the motion and on September 28,
2017, an order dismissing the case without prejudice was
entered. The order expressly provided, "Plaintiff shall
have one year to re-file the action, pursuant to W.S. §
complaint Respondent's client submitted to the Office of
Bar Counsel in late June 2018 stated, "Hired Mike Pearce
a couple years ago to handle my personal injury case. I
can't get him to answer the phone, return calls, letters
or emails for over a year. I'd like him to either get to
work or withdraw and return my file, preferably withdraw.
He's a poor excuse for an attorney."
Respondent filed a reply to the client's complaint with
the Office of Bar Counsel in which he stated:
I am responding to the allegations put forth to you against
me by [Respondent's client]. I have attempted to reach
him several times. The last we spoke, I provided him with an
update on his case, and there have been no more updates. I am
sorry that he feels I have not been responsive, though I have
given him all necessary and timely information. I have sent
messages to [email address]. I am happy to reach out to him
ASAP again to move forward in whatever way he wishes.
did not disclose in his initial response that the lawsuit had
been dismissed in September 2017.
receipt of a copy of Respondent's reply to the complaint,
Respondent's client wrote to Bar Counsel and insisted
that he had received no updates on the case after its initial
filing in February 2017 and had "no idea of where this
case stands, what deadlines may or may not have been met,
Following receipt of the client's response, Bar Counsel
prevailed upon Respondent to contact his client and get the
case back on track.
July 18, 2018, Respondent sent the following email to his
My apologies we have missed each other. However, I understand
you would like your file back, and though I am happy to send
it to you, sorry it came to this.
I explained to you or your wife several months ago that due
to procedural conditions I was not aware of at the time of
filing, we had to dismiss the claim but have one year to
refile. That runs in September. My suggestion would be for me
to refile and allow you to substitute another attorney if you
would like. That would ensure that time is honored and not
rush another attorney. Of course, I would be happy to see it
through at that point, too, but I will leave that up to you.
Please advise your intention on how you would like to handle
Upon receipt of Respondent's email, the client forwarded
it to Bar Counsel, insisting that he was unaware that the
case had been dismissed.
this juncture, Bar Counsel contacted the court and obtained a
copy of relevant pleadings - the complaint, the motion to
dismiss and the order of dismissal. Upon review of those
documents, Bar Counsel learned that the reason for the
dismissal was Respondent's failure to notify the Director
of the Workers' Compensation Division and the Attorney
General's office of the lawsuit as required by W.S.
October 17, 2018, Respondent sent his client an email
indicating that the case had been refiled. On October 18,
2018, Respondent refiled the same complaint as the one
Respondent had filed in early 2017. The new case was assigned
a new civil action number. Unfortunately, the refiling was
accomplished after the September 28, 2018, refiling deadline.
October 31, 2018, the Court granted defendants' motion to
dismiss the first lawsuit with prejudice. The motion had been
filed October 4, 2018. Respondent did not inform his client
of defendants' motion to dismiss the first case with
prejudice, nor of the order of dismissal with prejudice.
Service of the complaint in the new case was not obtained
upon the defendant until March 29, 2019. On April 11, 2019,
defense counsel filed a motion to dismiss the new action with
prejudice. Respondent did not inform his client of the
defendant's motion to dismiss the new case with
April 25, 2019, the client sent Respondent the following
I've been trying to reach you regarding the lawsuit, the
court tells me [the defendant] filed a motion to dismiss.
Have you or are you doing anything about that? Let me know
please, I think by now you know I'm not going to let it
go. I realize you have some personal problems but I have
problems as well which is why I hired you in the first place.
This accident changed my life Mike and not in a good way,
I've got 5 kids I'm raising and am doing it with
permanent back and nerve damage. Please get your act together
and take care of this!
Respondent responded, "The response is due Tuesday and I
am working on it now." Respondent filed the response to
the defendant's motion to dismiss on May 1, 2019. At this
time, the motion is pending and has not been set for hearing.
WSB No. 2019-039, Respondent represented the plaintiff in an
action in district court. On March 18, 2019, the presiding
judge issued a reprimand to Respondent based upon
Respondent's failure to comply with filing deadlines in
the case and his failure to make proper service of pleadings
if filed upon defense counsel. The presiding judge sent a
copy of the reprimand to Bar Counsel, who initiated an
investigation and subsequently filed a formal charge.
Board finds, with respect to the two matters encompassed by
the Stipulation and Affidavit, that there is clear and
convincing evidence of Respondent's to violations of Rule
1.1 (competence) Rule 1.3 (diligence), Rule 1.4
(communication with client), Rule 3.4(c) (failure to follow