FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
No appearance Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
Dennis K. McKinney, Staff Attorney
115 West Washington Street, Ste. 1060
Indianapolis, IN 46204
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
IN THE MATTER OF )
) Case No. 20S00-9610-DI-675
CARLOS A. RAZO )
December 16, 1999
In six instances, the respondent, Carlos A. Razo, failed to represent diligently the
interests of his clients. On some of those occasions, he failed to
return to them requested case file materials or unearned legal fees. For
that, we find today that he should be suspended from the practice of
This attorney disciplinary case comes before us upon the duly appointed hearing officers
findings of fact and conclusions of law. Because neither the respondent nor
the Disciplinary Commission has petitioned this Court for a review of those findings
and conclusions, this matter is now ripe for final resolution. Our
jurisdiction here is conferred by the respondents admission to the bar of this
state in 1991. As a preliminary note, we recognize that, due to
the severity of the charges against him, the respondent has been suspended
lite from the practice of law since October 21, 1997. See Ind.Admission
and Discipline Rule 23(11.1)(b).
The Commission introduced no evidence as to Count I of the verified complaint
for disciplinary action underlying this proceeding. As to Count II, we now
find that the parents of a man convicted of child molesting hired the
respondent to complete an appeal of that conviction after the death of the
attorney who had been handling the case. Rather than pursue a direct
appeal, the respondent chose to have the case remanded to the trial court
for post-conviction relief proceedings. The trial court denied the subsequent petition for
post-conviction relief on May 31, 1995. On July 7, 1995, the respondent
filed a praecipe for appeal of that denial, but never notified the defendant
or his parents that he filed the praecipe. Despite the parents
frequent attempts to contact the respondent, he failed to communicate with the
parents about the status of the appeal, other than to inform them falsely
that he had been granted several extensions of time to file it.
The parents ultimately hired another attorney to file a petition for belated appeal
of the denial of the petition for post-conviction relief, but the Court of
Appeals denied that petition.
We find that, by his actions in Count II, the respondent violated Ind.Professional
Conduct Rule 1.1
by failing to file timely a praecipe for appeal of
the trial courts denial of the defendants petition for post-conviction relief.
By failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in filing the praecipe
for appeal, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.3.
By failing to keep his
client reasonably informed about the status of the contemplated appeal, the respondent violated
Under Count III, we now find that a client hired the respondent in
early 1996 to update her will and draft a power of attorney.
She paid the respondent a fee of $150 and gave him a copy
of her existing will. Thereafter, she tried to reach the respondent on
several occasions, but he failed to respond or acknowledge her attempts to contact
him. On May 13, 1996, the client parked in front of
the respondents office and waited for him. When she spoke to him
as he was leaving the office, the respondent told her that he thought
he had already prepared the will and power of attorney and assured her
that he would send to her a copy of each. The
next day, the respondent telephoned the client and informed her that he had
failed to save the documents on his computer, but that he would have
new copies prepared and sent to her. When he failed to follow
through, the client again tried on numerous occasions to contact him, but was
unable to reach him.
By failing to prepare promptly the updated will and power of attorney for
his client, the respondent under Count III violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.3. By failing
to keep that client informed about the status of the work he was
hired to do, and by failing to return her phone calls, the respondent
violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(a).
Pursuant to Count IV, we now find that the parents of a defendant
charged with aggravated battery and dealing in a sawed-off shotgun hired the respondent,
paying him a fee of $900. The defendant instructed the respondent
to seek a bond reduction and to not continue the court dates.
Despite those instructions, the respondent continued several trial dates without seeking his clients
permission to do so and failed to seek a bond reduction.
Instead of informing the defendant or his parents in advance of the continuation
of trial dates, the respondent would meet them on the scheduled court date
when they appeared for hearing and inform them of the continuance.
Despite numerous attempts by the parents and the defendant to contact the respondent
to inform him of their desire for a bond reduction and prompt court
date, they were unable to reach the respondent in large part because he
failed to respond to their telephone calls or letters. The father
eventually resorted to firing the respondent because of his failure to follow their
instruction regarding the objectives of the representation. The respondent never returned any
portion of the fee paid to him for the representation, despite the fact
that he sought neither bond reduction nor prompt hearing.
By failing to abide by the defendants instructions to seek a bond reduction
and not to continue the trial settings, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.2(a), which
requires lawyers to abide by their clients decisions regarding the objectives of representation,
and to consult with clients about the means by which they are to
By failing promptly or diligently to seek the bond reduction,
the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.3. By failing to keep the defendant and
his family adequately informed about the status of the case, the respondent violated
Under Count V, we now find that a client hired the respondent to
represent him at a sentencing hearing upon his conviction of being a habitual
traffic offender, and to appeal that conviction. On January 12, 1996, the
respondent filed a praecipe for appeal. Later, although a trial transcript was
prepared, the respondent failed to file a record of proceedings with the Court
of Appeals. The client and his wife tried to contact the
respondent, but were never able to reach him. They learned that the
respondent had closed his law office, disconnected his telephone, and moved without leaving
any forwarding information. On one occasion, the clients wife by chance met
the respondent in a bar, and used that opportunity to fire the respondent
and ask for return of a $1,700 retainer they had paid to him
as well as items from the clients file. The respondent refused to
return to them case file materials to which they were entitled. Later,
after they filed a grievance against the respondent and the Commission asked the
respondent for a response to the allegations contained therein, the respondent failed to
We find that the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.3 by failing promptly or diligently
to pursue an appeal of his clients criminal conviction. By failing
to keep his client apprised of the status of the contemplated appeal and
failing to respond to his inquiries about the case, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R.
1.4(a). After his termination from representing the client, the respondent failed to
turn over to the client case file materials and unearned legal fees to
which the client was entitled, and thus violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.16(d).
to respond to the Commissions demand for information during its investigation, the respondent
violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(b).
Pursuant to Count VI, we now find that on October 12, 1994, the
respondent was appointed as appellate counsel to appeal a drug conviction. A
trial transcript was completed and delivered to the respondent on October 26, 1994.
The respondent took no action on the appeal during the next two
years, and was finally discharged as counsel on the case on January 15,
By failing to act diligently or promptly to appeal his clients conviction, the
respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.3. By failing to keep his client adequately informed
about the status of the case or promptly to respond to his clients
requests for information about it, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.4(a).
As to Count VII, we now find that the respondent represented a criminal
defendant as court-appointed counsel. A jury convicted the defendant on January
2, 1995, and the respondent was appointed as counsel for any appeal.
He filed a praecipe for appeal with the trial court clerk on January
3, 1995. The trial transcript was completed and delivered to the respondent
on March 2, 1995. The respondent then did nothing further in
pursuit of the appeal, but in June of 1996 informed the defendant that
his appeal had been filed and was being considered by the Court of
Appeals. On January 15, 1997, he was removed as appellate counsel.
The respondent later again failed to respond to the Commissions request for a
response to the grievance filed in reaction to his failure to act.
By failing to employ reasonable diligence and promptness in appealing his clients criminal
conviction, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.3. By failing to respond to the
Commissions demand for a response to the grievance, the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.1(b).
We must now determine what discipline is appropriate for the respondents misconduct.
In so doing, we consider the fact that he has demonstrated a
pattern of total abandonment of his clients causes, without bothering to seek formal
withdrawal or even to extend the professional courtesy of advance notice or truthful
explanation to his clients. In some instances, he compounded the injury his
clients suffered by failing to release to them case file materials or unearned
fees to which they were entitled. His clients mounting alarm apparently
only persuaded the respondent, in certain circumstances, to fabricate excuses as to why
the work was not done. By the time of hearing on
the disciplinary complaint, the respondent abandoned even that tactic, and failed to appear
at any proceeding in this matter. The respondents neglect was severe, causing
injury to his clients in the form of missed legal deadlines and the
like. Based on these considerations, we conclude that he should be removed
from the practice of law and readmitted only pursuant to the most stringent
standards governing readmission.
It is, therefore, ordered that the respondent, Carlos A. Razo, be suspended from
the practice of law in this state for a period of not fewer
than three years, effective immediately. In order to be readmitted to the
practice of law at the conclusion of that period, he must demonstrate to
this Court his satisfaction of the requirements for reinstatement contained in Ind.Admission and
Discipline Rule 23(4).
The clerk of this Court is directed to provide notice of this order
in accordance with Admis.Disc. R. 23(3)(d) and to provide the clerk of the
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the clerk of each
of the Federal District Courts in this state, and the clerk of each
United States Bankruptcy Court in this state with the last known address of
respondent as reflected in the records of the clerk.
Costs of this proceeding are assessed against the respondent.
Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.1 provides:
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires
the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.3 provides:
A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.4(a) provides:
(a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of
a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
Although it is not necessary for a lawyer to obtain the
clients desired outcome in order to be entitled to a fee for legal
lawyer should take some logical, tangible, substantive step toward resolution of
the clients problem. Matter of Schneider, 710 N.E.2d 178, 181 (Ind. 1999)
(finding that an attorneys billing of a client when the attorney had taken
no substantive step toward resolution of legal problem was indicative of unreasonable fee).
Here, there is no evidence that the respondent took any significant action
on behalf of his client.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.2(a) provides, in relevant part:
A lawyer shall abide by a clients decisions concerning the objectives of representation,
. . ., and shall consult with the client as to the means
by which they are to be pursued.
Professional Conduct Rule 1.16(d) provides:
Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably
practicable to protect a client's interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the
client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to
which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee that
has not been earned. The lawyer may retain papers relating to the
client to the extent permitted by other law.
Professional Conduct Rule 8.1(b) provides:
An applicant for admission to the bar, or a lawyer in connection with
a bar admission application or in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not
fail to disclose a fact necessary to correct a misapprehension known by the
person to have arisen in the matter, or knowingly fail to respond to
a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority, except that
this Rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6.