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The Mississippi Bar v. Gibbons

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

October 3, 2019

THE MISSISSIPPI BAR
v.
DAVID CARTAN LOKER GIBBONS, JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT MELISSA SCOTT

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ANDREW KILPATRICK, JR. ASHLEY LANE KRISTINE J. SWEARENGEN

          BEAM, JUSTICE

         ¶1. 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. 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.

         ¶3. 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.

         ¶4. 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.

         ¶5. 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.

         ¶6. 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 GNOFCU.

         ¶7. 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.

         ¶8. 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.

         ¶9. 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.

         ¶10. 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.

         ¶11. 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 ...


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