ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT MELISSA SCOTT
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ANDREW KILPATRICK, JR. ASHLEY LANE
KRISTINE J. SWEARENGEN
The Mississippi Bar filed a formal complaint against David
Cartan Loker Gibbons, Jr., seeking reciprocal discipline
under Rule 13 of the Rules of Discipline for the Mississippi
State Bar after the Supreme Court of Louisiana suspended
Gibbons from practicing law in Louisiana for one year and a
day, with all but six months deferred. The Bar expresses no
view as to the discipline to be imposed against Gibbons.
After due consideration, we conclude that it is appropriate
to impose reciprocal discipline equal to the suspension
period imposed by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
By order dated January 8, 2019, the Louisiana Supreme Court
suspended Gibbons from the practice of law in Louisiana for a
period of one year and one day, with all but six months
deferred. The Louisiana Supreme Court accepted the findings
and recommendations of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel
(ODC) for the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, as set
forth in a joint petition for consent discipline submitted by
Gibbons and the ODC.
According to the joint petition, the ODC received a complaint
in March 2016 from Greater New Orleans Federal Credit Union
(GNOFCU) against Gibbons. The complaint said that GNOFCU had
retained Gibbons in 2006 to represent it in recovering money
owed to it from various outstanding obligations, including
car seizures and deficiency law suits.
The fee arrangement between GNOFCU and Gibbons as to the car
seizures provided that Gibbons would be paid $500 in legal
fees, $100 for each court hearing attended and reimbursement
for court costs. As to the deficiency suits, GNOFCU and
Gibbons agreed that Gibbons would be paid a percentage of any
money he collected.
Gibbons was a member of a three-attorney law firm. Each
attorney in the firm had his own clients and did minimal
cooperative work with the other lawyers. Gibbons was the sole
attorney who worked on GNOFCU matters. Gibbons had little or
no administrative assistance.
The matters GNOFCU submitted to Gibbons were almost
exclusively handled by email. There were no individual
engagement letters for theses matters, but Gibbons did not
believe that he could object to working on any particular
matter that GNOFCU referred to him. Initially, approximately
half of the matters GNOFCU sent to Gibbons involved car
seizures. Gibbons was successful in the car-seizure matters
and never fell behind in his professional obligations to
Over time, GNOFCU began referring more deficiency suits to
Gibbons and fewer car- seizure matters. The majority of the
deficiency suits were relatively small unsecured loans that
GNOFCU's in-house collection department had attempted
unsuccessfully to collect. Gibbons estimated that his
collection rate on the deficiency suits was approximately 10
percent of the principal value of the unsecured loans.
In early 2011, GNOFCU began asking Gibbons for updates on its
accounts and requesting a copy of any judgment that Gibbons
had obtained on GNOFCU's behalf.
Despite making promises, Gibbons failed to provide GNOFCU any
updates about the information requested. GNOFCU, however,
continued to refer deficiency suits to Gibbons via email.
Gibbons admitted that he became overwhelmed by the volume of
deficiency loans that GNOFCU had referred to him. Gibbons
said that, when contacted by GNOFCU, he always intended to
organize an inventory of the collection cases and to bring
all collection matters current because he was embarrassed by
his inability to keep up with and to make progress on the
cases. But because he had become overwhelmed, Gibbons was
reticent to admit to GNOFCU that he had not kept up with the
deficiency suits that GNOFCU continued to send him. During
this period, Gibbons was suffering from anxiety and
associated depression, which drove him to a deep emotional
state of avoidance. He physically could not work on the
increasing number of deficiency suits. Gibbons sought
professional help but was unable to overcome his anxiety.
In March 2015, GNOFCU hired other counsel to take over an
account previously placed with Gibbons in order to collect
proceeds from a May 2014 foreclosure obtained by GNOFCU in
the amount of $75, 000. Despite Gibbons's representations
that he was working on the matter, the newly retained ...