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MISSISSIPPI STATE BAR ASSOCIATION v. EDWARD B. MOYO

APRIL 06, 1988

MISSISSIPPI STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
v.
EDWARD B. MOYO



EN BANC.

HAWKINS, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

The Mississippi State Bar has appealed from a judgment of the Complaints Tribunal imposing a public reprimand upon Edward B. Moyo. Because Moyo seriously breached his professional duties to his client, and engaged in deceit, dishonesty and fraud, we direct he be permanently disbarred.

FACTS

 The record in this case does not show the precise age of Anthony J. Morris. Indeed, we do not know his full correct

 name. In some places it is Anthony J. Morris, at others Anthony Morris, Jr., at others Anthony Morris. We know nothing about his natural father.

 On or about January 3, 1985, Anthony was living with his mother Mary A. McLaurin (at other places Mary Alice McLaurin) at 225 Elm Street in Jackson. He was probably at that time around 14 years old. On that date there was a motor vehicle accident at the corner of Bailey and Maple Avenues involving a truck being driven by William McCall and owned by Jackson Ready-Mix Concrete Company, and a car being driven by Juanita Bradshaw. Anthony, a pedestrian at the time, was struck and injured. The record tells us nothing about how the accident occurred. The record as to his injuries is ambiguous, the chancery court petition to settle his claim alleging he" received injury to his left leg and endured mental anguish, "and Moyo testifying at the disciplinary hearing the boy had a" fracture of the neck. "

 The medical statements in this record indicate an ambulance was called on January 3, that Anthony was admitted to University Hospital on that date, and discharged on January 7. His hospital bill was $4,329.42. He had a bill from University Orthopedic Clinic for $415.00, a $260.00 bill for anesthesia, and a $277.00 bill from the Pediatric Clinic. The ambulance charge was $45.00. His total expenses shown by the record are $5,326.42.

 At this time Moyo had a law office at the corner of Bailey Avenue and Elm Street, across the street and a few doors from McLaurin's home. He heard that Anthony had been injured, and had recently been released from the hospital. In Moyo's words:

 A. Okay. Ms. McLaurin - at that time my office was on Bailey Avenue and Elm Street, and Ms. McLaurin's house was right across the street from my office, and I used to park my car in front of their house, opposite their house. And one day a gentleman, as I parked my car across the street, said," The lady who lives over there's husband recently died, and the son was hit by a car and was injured, and she's looking for some help. "And then the following day I was going to my car, and I saw Ms. McLaurin. I told her somebody had asked me to come to her house and see if I could help her.

 (R.103-104)

 Also from the record:

 Q. And you were going to go over there to help her out with regard to her son's personal injury case. Is that correct?

 A. Like someone refers you to a client and you just go and investigate.

 Moyo testified that he was under the impression the unidentified man who informed him about McLaurin was her father, which he subsequently learned was a mistake. If he thought the man was her father, it is unusual that he did not tell McLaurin when he first approached her that her father had asked him to talk to her.

 In any event, Moyo began working on the case. Juanita Bradshaw had a liability policy with Nationwide Insurance Company, Jackson Ready-Mix with Home Insurance Company. After correspondence, telephone calls and an interview with an adjustor, Nationwide's claims department agreed to pay $12,500 towards a compromise settlement, and Home's claims department agreed to pay $10,000.

 On March 22, 1985, McLaurin, as the natural mother, next friend and" guardian "of Anthony, executed an ex parte petition to settle Anthony's claims for $22,500. The petition to settle and order authorizing settlement were prepared by Moyo.

 The petition was filed on the same date in the chancery court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County. McLaurin alleged she was the natural mother of Anthony, that he was a resident of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, and the court had jurisdiction of the case pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. 93-13-211, and" all necessary interested parties are joined herein. "

 Paragraph 2 alleged that Anthony had" sustained certain personal injuries and mental anguish "as a result of the January 3 accident, and further that he had" received injury to his left leg and endured mental anguish, "and incurred approximately $5,300 medical expenses as a result.

 Paragraph 3 alleged that the accident was due to the negligence of Jackson Ready-Mix and Bradshaw, and a $22,500 offer of settlement had been made as authorized by Miss. Code Ann. 93-13-211, to completely settle the claim against all persons. Paragraph 4 alleged that the claim was doubtful,

 unliquidated and disputed, and that it was to the best interest of Anthony to accept the offer.

 Paragraph 5 alleged that Moyo's services had been engaged, that he had conducted a thorough investigation, had rendered good and valuable services, and that the" petitioners herein should be authorized to pay their said attorney the total sum of $9,000.00 out of the settlement proceeds herein, as a reasonable attorney fee. "

 The prayer asked the court to hear and investigate the matter, determine what was in the best interest of the minor, and to enter an order authorizing settlement and a release of all claims, and that the" Petitioners be authorized and empowered to receive such sum of money for the use and benefit of the minor petitioner . . . " The petitioner asked for special and general relief.

 Also on this same date Moyo alone presented the petition to a Hinds County chancellor in his chambers, and an order was entered that same date in essentially the same words as the petition, authorizing the settlement and $9,000 payment to Moyo, which the court found was a" reasonable fee "for his services.

 Moyo testified that the reason he did not set up a guardianship was that he was mistaken as to the law, thinking the estate must have at least $10,000 for a guardianship.

 There is a difference between Moyo's and McLaurin's testimony as to his employment, as well as the disbursement of the settlement proceeds.

 Moyo testified he received the $10,000 settlement check first, out of which he paid himself $9,000 and gave McLaurin $1,000 in cash. When he received the $12,500 check he said he gave her a check for $4,500 and paid her $5,300 in cash with which to pay the medical bills. This left $2,700 remaining of the $12,500 payment.

 About this time McLaurin was arrested for cashing retirement checks payable to her deceased husband. She called Moyo to represent her. With the remaining $2,700 he charged her $2,500 for his fee, and took the $200 for a bondsman's fee.

 The record is not clear, but apparently by paying the businesses the amount of the checks on which she had forged the endorsements, McLaurin was released from the criminal charges. This unknown amount was apparently paid by Moyo.

 On March 28 McLaurin deposited the $4,500 check in a silver savings account with the First National Bank in Jackson. There promptly began a series of disbursements. McLaurin bought a bicycle and a television set for Anthony, and" stuff that he wanted to have and things. "She also let her retired father have money. By June 24 the account was down to $1,587.11.

 At some point in time after he had let McLaurin have the $4,500 check, Moyo found himself in need of some money. He approached McLaurin for a loan of $1,500, promising to repay the $1,500 plus an additional $500 in thirty to forty-five days.

 Apparently the two of them went to the bank. There, instead of McLaurin simply withdrawing the money and loaning it to Moyo, the bank loaned him $1,500 and used $1,500 of the savings account as collateral.

 When McLaurin's disbursements got down close to the $1,500 balance, the bank would not permit further withdrawals.

 Friends advised McLaurin she had not been done right. Enter the Mississippi State Bar. McLaurin complained to the Bar and an investigation ensued, Moyo being notified of its pendency. On July 1, 1985, Moyo paid McLaurin $200, on July 5 he paid her $110, and on July 18 he paid her $200. On July 19, 1985, the date of the Bar's investigatory hearing, Moyo paid the bank $1,519.25 in repayment of the loan.

 McLAURIN'S VERSION

 McLaurin's answers calling for a" yes "or" no "were answered with a" Uh-huh, "or a" Unh-huh. "

 She did not know Moyo before the accident. When he came to her, she testified:" Well, he come over there and said that he was sent over there to ask me how my son got hurt and what happened to him. " She said there was no discussion as to how Moyo was to be paid. *fn1 She gave Moyo the ambulance bill.

 The next thing she heard from Moyo was about a month later when he came to her and gave her $500 in cash. She thought her son was in the hospital about a month.

 She said Moyo took her to the bank and gave her the $500 in cash after he had signed her name to the back of a check.

 None of the $500 was used to pay medical bills.

 She said that the next time she was in contact with Moyo was when she was put in jail and had her stepmother call him. She said she" guessed "he got $2,000 then to represent her. She further testified that when she got out of jail he gave her another $500 in cash, telling her this was what was left out of what he had paid to get her out of jail.

 She knew nothing about any settlement Moyo had made with the insurance companies. Moyo told her that he would pay the medical bills.

 In addition to the two $500 disbursements, McLaurin said she received $4,500 which she took to the bank. This was all that Moyo paid her until the summer of 1986, and long after the disciplinary proceedings had been instituted. In May or June, 1986, she said Moyo paid her $2,000. As to the $2,000, she said that Moyo told her this was to pay the medical bills. According to McLaurin, at the time of the hearing in October, 1986, Moyo had paid her a total of $7,500. She said that she had met with Moyo after she had made her complaint and that he promised to" relief the money back to me. "*fn2 At the hearing there was $578 remaining on deposit in the savings account.

 Despite her testimony on cross-examination, McLaurin testified she did not believe Moyo had tried to trick her, and that she had been" rushed, "or" pushed "into making a complaint.

 Appended as Exhibit A to his May 14, 1986, answer to the amended formal complaint of the bar, Moyo ...


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