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In re Reinstatement of Thompson

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

December 5, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE REINSTATEMENT OF GAIL P. THOMPSON:
v.
THE MISSISSIPPI BAR GAIL P. THOMPSON

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/13/2008

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: RANDOLPH WALKER

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ADAM B. KILGORE

WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE

¶1. Gail Thompson petitions the Court for reinstatement to the practice of law following her suspension in two separate matters. We find Thompson has satisfied the jurisdictional requirements necessary to warrant her reinstatement. Therefore, we approve Thompson's petition for reinstatement.

FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. Gail Thompson was admitted to the Mississippi Bar (Bar) in 1990 and primarily practiced criminal law. Thompson was publicly reprimanded in 2002 for neglecting a client's case. She received another public reprimand for failing to reimburse an unused portion of legal fees she had previously been ordered by the Bar to refund. She subsequently was suspended from the practice of law by this Court in two separate matters: in 2003 for eighteen months in The Mississippi Bar v. Gail P. Thompson, Cause No. 2002-B-645 (the "Jones matter"), and in 2008 for thirty (30) months in The Mississippi Bar v. Gail P. Thompson, Cause No. 2005-B-1936 (the "McGaughy matter"), which was retroactive to March 14, 2006, and resulted from a remand from this Court. See The Mississippi Bar v. Gail P. Thompson, 5 So.3d 330 (Miss. 2008).

¶3. In the Jones matter, Thompson agreed to represent Jones in a federal suit against a correctional officer employed by the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Mississippi Bar v. Thompson, Cause No. 2002-B-645, at 2. Although no document could be produced, Jones and Thompson both agreed there was a contingency fee arrangement and that she would be entitled to fifty percent of any judgment if an appeal was successful. Id. at 1. The federal district court ruled in favor of Jones and awarded him $6, 000, which judgment MDOC appealed. In August 2000, the case was affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and MDOC tendered the $6, 000 to Thompson. Id. at 1-2.

¶4. Thompson immediately withdrew $3, 000 from money deposited from the judgment in her trust account for her fee, but failed to distribute the remaining $3, 000 due to Jones and never prepared an accounting. Id. at 2. Evidence showed that Thompson's trust account later fell below $3, 000, with the lowest amount being $395 in April 2001. Id. Jones repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to contact Thompson after learning of the verdict. Id. Finally, Jones filed a complaint with the Bar against Thompson. Id. After Thompson was notified of the complaint, she mailed Jones a check for $3, 000 but, again, no accounting was performed. Id. Thompson was found by a tribunal to have violated Rule 1.4 of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct (M.R.P.C) for not keeping Jones reasonably informed of the status of the $6, 000 judgment and Rule 1.15(b) for mishandling client funds. Id.

¶5. In the McGaughy matter, Thompson hired Robert Tubwell, a former inmate at Parchman, to work as a paralegal. Mississippi Bar v. Gail P. Thompson, 5 So.3d 330, 332 (Miss. 2008). Mario McGaughy was an inmate serving a life sentence, with whom Tubwell was acquainted. Id. at 332-33. McGaughy wrote to Tubwell in an attempt to hire a lawyer to file a petition for post-conviction relief. Id. at 333. Tubwell wrote McGaughy on Thompson's law-firm letterhead stating Thompson would work on McGaughy's case, quoted him a fee for the work, and instructed him to send all further correspondence to Tubwell's apartment. Id.

¶6. Tubw ell again wrote McGaughy on Thompson's law-firm letterhead and advised him that he had a strong case. Id. Subsequently, Tubwell mailed McGaughy his court records and a petition for post-conviction relief, which he instructed McGaughy to sign and have notarized. However, he did not tell McGaughy that he was filing the petition pro se. Id. McGaughy's petition was denied and thereafter, Tubwell suggested he file a writ of habeas corpus in federal court; however, no habeas petition was ever filed. Id. Believing Thompson's law firm to be representing him, McGaughy filed an informal complaint with the Mississippi Bar against Thompson for failure to pursue his post-conviction-relief application and petition for habeas corpus. Id. at 333-34.

¶7. Thompson claimed to have no knowledge of Tubwell's letters to McGaughy and asserted Tubwell had taken advantage of her trust. Id. at 334. She informed Tubwell that all cases he was working on needed to come through her office but admitted she had no safeguards in place to prevent Tubwell from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Id. Additionally, Thompson failed to protect client files after they were confiscated for her failure to pay rent on a storage facility in which she had left them. Id. This Court affirmed a complaint tribunal's findings that Thompson had violated M.R.P.C. 1.15 for failing to keep her clients' files safe; M.R.P.C. 5.3 for failing to make sufficient efforts to supervise Tubwell's work; and M.R.P.C. 8.4(a), (d) for professional misconduct and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. Id. at 340. In addition, this Court found Thompson had violated M.R.P.C. 5.5(b) because there was sufficient evidence that she had assisted Tubwell in the unauthorized practice of law. Id. at 338.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶8. This Court reserves "'exclusive and inherent jurisdiction'" over attorney-reinstatement cases. In re Morrison, 819 So.2d 1181, 1183 (Miss. 2001) (quoting In re Smith, 758 So.2d 396, 397 (Miss. 1999)). These matters are reviewed de novo, on a case-by-case basis. In re ...


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