ORDER OF DISBARMENT
W. KITCHENS, PRESIDING JUSTICE.
This matter is before the Court, en banc, on the
amended formal complaint filed by the Mississippi Bar against
Yvonne L. Hughes, a licensed Mississippi attorney. The Bar
requests reciprocal discipline based on Hughes's
disbarment by the Supreme Court of Louisiana on May 11, 2007,
and asks that this Court order Hughes to pay the costs and
expenses of filing the formal complaint and amended formal
On April 22, 2004, the Supreme Court of Louisiana issued a
decision removing Hughes from judicial office based on the
recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana
("Commission"). In re Judge Yvonne L.
Hughes, 874 So.2d 746 (La. 2004). The court's
opinion related that Hughes had been a judge of the Orleans
Parish Juvenile Court, Division "C." Id.
at 752. The Commission had filed fifteen formal charges
against Hughes based on her activities as an attorney and
three formal charges based on her activities as a judge.
Id. at 753, 757. After the Commission's two-part
hearing on the charges, it recommended that Hughes be removed
from judicial office and that the record should be forwarded
to the Lawyer Disciplinary Board for consideration of whether
she should retain her license to practice law. Id.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana, which has exclusive original
jurisdiction in judicial disciplinary proceedings, found that
the charges filed by the Commission were substantiated by
clear and convincing evidence. Id. at 752. That
court issued a forty-five page opinion, with an unpublished
appendix, detailing its findings of Hughes's judicial
misconduct and her unprofessional conduct as an attorney and
judicial candidate. Id. at 746-91. Because the
record evinced an extraordinary pattern of misconduct, the
Louisiana court concluded, "Judge Hughes has
demonstrated a blatant and incorrigible inability to conform
to the rules imposed on any aspect of her career - be it
notary, attorney, candidate, or judge." Id. at
The court found that, in Hughes's capacity as a
practicing attorney, she repeatedly had taken money from
clients and had failed to perform the services for which she
had been retained, and then she refused to refund the fees.
Id. at 785. Out of the nine charges involving
Hughes's failure to account to former clients and/or to
refund unearned fees, the court singled out several incidents
for discussion as particularly representative of Hughes's
misconduct. Id. at 775 n.16.
In one such incident, Hughes accepted representation of
Donald Jones, who paid her $2, 500 to handle his criminal
case. Id. at 778. But when Hughes failed to appear
at Jones's guilty plea hearing, Jones was forced to hire
his codefendant's attorney to represent him, despite the
fact that he believed this created a conflict of interest.
Id. at 779. In her defense, Hughes claimed that she
had taken part in plea negotiations and had arranged for the
codefendant's counsel to represent Jones at the guilty
plea hearing. Id. Not only did Jones deny any
knowledge of that arrangement, but the assistant district
attorneys involved with the plea bargain had no recollection
of Hughes's involvement. Id. Hughes did not
refund the unearned fees. Id.
In another matter, Troy Dews paid Hughes a $2, 500 retainer
to represent his nephew on criminal charges in federal
district court in Mississippi. Id. at 780. Hughes
agreed she would investigate the charges and visit the
nephew, who was incarcerated in Jackson, Mississippi. Hughes
neither made an appearance at the arraignment nor requested a
continuance. Id. at 780. Hughes did travel to
Jackson, but never visited the nephew; instead, she attended
a gospel concert and visited an ill friend. Id.
Having discerned that Hughes had done nothing in the case,
Dews spent six weeks begging for a refund, after which Hughes
sent him a partial refund check that was returned twice for
insufficient funds. Id. At the hearing, Hughes
conceded that she probably owed Dews money and that she never
had given him an accounting. Id. Hughes explained
she had not repaid Dews because doing so would not have
stopped the disciplinary proceedings. Id. The court
described Hughes's excuse as "especially
disturbing" and found that her misconduct had brought
Louisiana's attorneys and judiciary into disrepute.
Id. at 781.
In another Louisiana incident, twenty-one days prior to
assuming office as a juvenile court judge, Hughes accepted
representation of Dorian Ferguson in a criminal matter
pending in Jefferson Parish. Id. at 782.
Ferguson's family paid Hughes $700 toward the
representation. Id. Hughes appeared as counsel of
record; but after she assumed judicial office, she abandoned
the representation. Id. at 783. When Ferguson
contacted Hughes after she had failed to appear at a motions
hearing, she said she had referred the matter to another law
firm that had agreed to handle the case for the same total
fee Hughes had negotiated, $1500. Id. But when the
family contacted the law firm, it demanded $3500. And Hughes
refused to refund the $700 she had received from
Ferguson's family. Id. at 783-84.
Next, the court addressed Hughes's misconduct regarding
her acceptance of a $1500 retainer to represent Lana
Turner's son on a second degree murder charge.
Id. at 784. Hughes spent $500 of the retainer on an
investigator; but when she assumed judicial office, she
abandoned the representation without informing the client or
his mother. Id. at 784. Without obtaining permission
from the Turners, she arranged for another attorney to take
over the case. Id. When Lana Turner demanded a
refund, Hughes refused to refund any portion of the fee.
Id. at 785.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana found that these and numerous
similar charges involving Hughes's refusal to refund
unearned fees or to account to clients had been established
by clear and convincing evidence. Id. at 775 n.16.
Its description of the other similar charges was contained in
an unpublished appendix. Id. at 791. The court found
many other instances of attorney misconduct, including that
Hughes had failed to maintain a client's files and turn
them over to a new attorney, which had jeopardized the case.
Id. at 782. The supreme court found that, in
connection with that matter, she had ignored a subpoena to
appear in court, which the supreme court deemed
"egregious, absolutely unacceptable, and totally
intolerable." Id. Additionally, the court
determined that Hughes had held herself out as a notary
public after her notarial commission had been suspended.
Id. at 777-78. The court further found that, as a
judicial candidate, Hughes had committed repeated, egregious
campaign finance reporting violations resulting in the
assessment of fines and fees in the amount of $49, 400.
Id. at 775-77.
After reviewing the voluminous evidence of Hughes's
attorney misconduct, the Louisiana court said the following:
The evidence clearly and convincingly establishes that as an
attorney, Judge Hughes time and time again took money from
people who could ill afford to pay it, did minimal or no work
to earn it, and then refused to refund monies she clearly had
not earned. Preying upon her clients' lack of education
and lack of sophistication in legal matters, Judge Hughes
either ignored or cavalierly dismissed complaints that she
had failed to perform the services for which she was
retained, explaining that her work was all done behind the
scenes and that her fees were all earned. However, she failed
to produce any records that might substantiate her claims and
failed to account to her clients for their hard-earned
Such conduct is inexcusable. Judge Hughes' documented
failure to account to her clients, to return unearned fees
even after acknowledging that refunds were owed, to
appreciate the significance of holding herself out as a
notary when she holds no notary commission, and to abide by
the basic rules of law that govern all citizens, not just
lawyers and judges (such as campaign finance laws and valid
subpoenas) is persistent and public conduct prejudicial to
the administration of justice that warrants discipline. We
find the Lawyer Charges were proved ...