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Russell v. Mississippi Bar

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

June 8, 2017

ERMEA J. RUSSELL
v.
THE MISSISSIPPI BAR

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/25/2015

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ERMEA J. RUSSELL (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ADAM BRADLY KILGORE

          BEAM, JUSTICE

         ¶1. Appellant Ermea J. Russell files a Petition for Reinstatement to the practice of law following a ten-month suspension. Because Russell's petition fails to meet the jurisdictional requirements for reinstatement, we deny her request.

         FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On July 10, 2015, Russell was suspended for ten months resulting from a Formal Complaint filed at the request of former clients. Based on nine separate informal complaints, the Mississippi Bar found that Russell had failed to provide representation for which she was hired, return client property, and properly withdraw from representation of her clients. These informal complaints indicated her lack of diligence and lack of communication regarding her clients' legal representation. Through its investigations, the Complaint Tribunal found seven violations of Rules 1.16(d), 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, and 8.1 of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct, which resulted in her suspension.

         ¶3. Russell now files a Petition for Reinstatement pursuant to Rule 12 of the Mississippi Rules of Discipline.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶4. The attorney seeking reinstatement carries the burden of proving that she has rehabilitated herself and has established the requisite moral character to reinstate her to the privilege of practicing law. Stewart v. The Mississippi Bar, 5 So.3d 344, 346 (Miss. 2008) (citing In re Holleman, 826 So.2d 1243, 1246 (Miss. 2002)). This Court "has exclusive and inherent jurisdiction over matters regarding attorney discipline, reinstatement, and appointment of receivers for suspended and disbarred attorneys." In re Morrison, 819 So.2d 1181, 1183 (Miss. 2001) (quoting In re Smith, 758 So.2d 396, 397 (Miss. 1999)). We review the evidence in disciplinary matters de novo, "on a case-by-case basis of triers of fact." Morrison, 819 So.2d at 1183.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶5. The issue before this Court is whether Russell satisfied the jurisdictional requirements to be reinstated to the practice of law. Reinstatement is based on "whether [the attorney] has rehabilitated [her]self in conduct and character since the suspension was imposed." In re Steele, 722 So.2d 662, 664 (Miss. 1998). The Petitioner bears the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that she has rehabilitated herself by complying with the requirements of Rule 12(a), which provides that no person disbarred or suspended for a period of six months or longer shall be reinstated to the privilege of practicing law except upon petition to this Court. In re Petition of Benson for Reinstatement, 890 So.2d 888, 890 (Miss. 2004) (citing Miss. R. D. 12(a)). In Benson, this Court articulated five requirements which apply to Rule 12 reinstatement petitions. A petitioner must demonstrate rehabilitation by:

1. stating the cause or causes for suspension or disbarment,
2. providing the names and current addresses of all persons, parties, firms, or legal entities who suffered pecuniary loss ...

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