SUSPENSION AND RESTITUTION
Deborah A. Bonner, P48031, Detroit, by the Attorney Discipline Board Tri-County Hearing Panel #14. Suspension, 180 days, effective March 4, 2023.1
After proceedings conducted pursuant to MCR 9.115, the panel found by default that the respondent committed professional misconduct during her representation of a client in a divorce action by failing to respond to her client’s requests for information about her matter, failing to communicate with her client after July 26, 2021, and abandoning her representation of the client.
Based on the respondent’s default and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel found that the respondent neglected a legal matter in violation of MRPC 1.1(c); failed to seek the lawful objective of the client in violation of MRPC 1.2(a); failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in violation of MRPC 1.3; failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter and to comply with reasonable requests for information in violation of MRPC 1.4(a); failed to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation in violation of MRPC 1.4(b); and failed to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interest of the client in violation of MRPC 3.2. The panel also found that the respondent violated MRPC 8.4(c), and MCR 9.104(1) and (2).
The panel ordered that the respondent’s license to practice law be suspended for 180 days, effective March 4, 2023, and that the respondent pay restitution totaling $1,500. Costs were assessed in the amount of $1,887.16.
1. Respondent has been continuously suspended from the practice of law in Michigan since Nov. 10, 2022. Please see Notice of Interim Suspension Pursuant to MCR 9.115(H)(1), issued Nov. 10, 2022, in Grievance Administrator v. Deborah A. Bonner, 22-70-GA.
Paul Bukowski, P72658, Clinton Township, by the Attorney Discipline Board Tri-County Hearing Panel #101. Suspension, 179 days, effective Feb. 11, 2023.
The respondent and the grievance administrator filed a Stipulation Regarding Misconduct and Sanctions in which the respondent admitted the factual allegations and allegations of professional misconduct set forth in the formal complaint in its entirety and the parties agreed that misconduct was established. The parties further agreed that the hearing would only relate to the appropriate sanction for the established misconduct.
Based on the parties’ stipulation, the panel found the following:
At all times relevant, the respondent was employed by the then Macomb County Prosecutor, Eric J. Smith, as an assistant Macomb County prosecuting attorney. The respondent received several promotions between 2011 and 2015. Beginning in June 2019, he served as chief of the district court unit, supervising 12 assistant prosecutors. The respondent operated a campaign fund known as Campaign to Elect Eric J. Smith from 2012 to 2019. In late August or early September 2016, Smith approached the respondent under the pretense of hiring him as consultant for Smith’s potential run for county executive in 2020. In a subsequent conversion, Smith told the respondent that he would give the respondent a check for $20,000, that he wanted the respondent to return $15,000 of the money to him, and that he would allow the respondent to keep $5,000 as a purported consulting fee. In that conversation or another one, Smith told the respondent that he needed money for a pool that was costing him $40,000. The respondent suspected that Smith was converting money from his campaign funds for his personal use, which was illegal. Smith gave the respondent a check dated Sept. 6, 2016, for $20,000 from his campaign fund account made payable to the respondent. The respondent endorsed the check and deposited it into his personal checking account on or around Sept. 8, 2016. On Sept. 9, 2016, the respondent withdrew $15,000 in cash from his account with the intention of giving it to Smith, as Smith had requested, and on Sept. 9, 2016, the respondent handed Smith an envelope containing $15,000 in cash. The respondent retained the $5,000 balance of the $20,000 check as purported future consulting work. After September 2016, Smith asked the respondent to lie to the authorities about what had occurred regarding the transaction, but the respondent refused to do so. The respondent was not charged with a crime arising out of the transaction.
Based upon the respondent’s admissions and the evidence adduced at the hearing, the panel found that the respondent engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or violation of the criminal law where such conduct reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in violation of MRPC 8.4(b); engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of MCR 9.104(1) and MRPC 8.4(c); engaged in conduct that exposes the legal profession or the courts to obloquy, contempt, censure, or reproach in violation of MCR 9.104(2); and engaged in conduct contrary to justice, ethics, honesty, or good morals in violation of MCR 9.104(3).
The panel ordered that the respondent’s license to practice law be suspended for a period of 179 days. Costs were assessed in the amount of $2,429.
REPRIMAND (BY CONSENT)
Paul S. Clark, P39164, Ferndale, by the Attorney Discipline Board Tri-County Hearing Panel #65. Reprimand, effective Feb. 16, 2023.
The respondent and the grievance administrator filed a Stipulation for Consent Order of Reprimand and Waiver pursuant to MCR 9.115(F)(5) that was approved by the Attorney Grievance Commission and accepted by the hearing panel. Based upon the respondent’s admissions as set forth in the parties’ stipulation, the panel found that the respondent committed professional misconduct when a settlement check was presented by a client of respondent for payment against his IOLTA and there were insufficient funds in the IOLTA to cover the check, and when he inappropriately maintained personal funds in his IOLTA while the account also contained client funds. The panel also accepted the representation set forth in the parties’ stipulation that the respondent now regularly reconciles his IOLTA and communicates with his accountant before issuing checks so that no more overdrafts issue and that his IOLTA no longer contains personal funds.
Based upon the respondent’s admission and the stipulation of the parties, the panel found that the respondent failed to promptly deliver funds that a client or third party was entitled to receive in violation of MRPC 1.15(b)(3); commingled personal funds in a client trust account beyond an amount reasonably necessary to pay financial institution service charges or fees in violation of MRPC 1.15(f); and engaged in conduct that exposed the legal profession or the courts to obloquy, contempt, censure, or reproach in violation of MCR 9.104(2). In accordance with the stipulation of the parties, the hearing panel ordered that the respondent be reprimanded. Costs were assessed in the amount of $758.30.
THREE-YEAR SUSPENSION (BY CONSENT)
Eric Cameron Hoort, P84656, Zeeland, by the Attorney Discipline Board Ottawa County Hearing Panel #1. Suspension, three years, effective Feb. 17, 2023.
The grievance administrator filed a notice of filing of reciprocal discipline pursuant to MCR 9.120(C) that attached a certified copy of a Disbarment Order issued by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington on Aug. 10, 2021, that disbarred the respondent from practicing law in the state of Washington effective Aug. 17, 2021, in a matter titled In Re Eric Cameron Hoort, WSBA #29360, Supreme Court No 202, 017-8.
Contemporaneously with the Notice of Filing of Reciprocal Discipline, the parties filed a Stipulation for Consent Order of Suspension pursuant to MCR 9.115(F)(5). After reviewing the parties’ stipulation, the panel communicated its concerns in writing to the parties pursuant to MCR 9.115(F)(5)(c)(ii) and requested that they appear for a status conference to address the panel’s concerns. After the status conference was held, the panel issued a notice of intent to reject the stipulation for consent order of discipline and subsequently scheduled a second status conference during which the parties offered more information and answered further questions from the panel. Shortly thereafter, the parties filed an Amended Stipulation for Consent Order of Suspension which was accepted by the hearing panel.
Based on the certified copy of the order of disbarment issued by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington and the respondent’s acknowledgment that he was found to have knowingly violated a temporary order for protection and falsely certified that no disciplinary investigation was pending against him at the time he executed a request to voluntarily resign his license to practice law in violation of Washington Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(c), (i) and (j) as set forth in the amended stipulation of the parties, the panel found that the respondent committed misconduct as set forth in MCR 9.120(C)(1). The panel ordered that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law in Michigan for three years, effective Feb. 17, 2023. Costs were assessed in the amount of $1,157.72.
179-DAY SUSPENSION WITH CONDITIONS (BY CONSENT)
Andrew J. Paluda, P42890, Royal Oak, by the Attorney Discipline Board Tri-County Hearing Panel #53. Suspension, 179 days, effective June 10, 2022.
The respondent and the grievance administrator filed a Stipulation for Consent Order of 179-Day Suspension with Conditions which was approved by the Attorney Grievance Commission and accepted by the hearing panel. The stipulation contains the respondent’s admission that he was convicted by no-contest plea of the felony offense of Operating While Intoxicated, Third Offense, in violation of MCL/PACC Code 257-3256D, in a matter titled People v. Andrew Joseph Paluda, Oakland County Circuit Court Case No. 21-278749-FH.
Based on the respondent’s admissions and the parties’ stipulation, the panel found that the respondent violated a criminal law of a state or of the United States, an ordinance, or tribal law which constituted professional misconduct under MCR 9.104(5). In accordance with the stipulation of the parties, the hearing panel ordered that the respondent’s license to practice law in Michigan be suspended for 179 days effective June 10, 2022, as agreed to by the parties. The panel also ordered that the respondent be subject to conditions relevant to the established misconduct. Total costs were assessed in the amount of $827.68.