BOSSIER PARRISH — A Bossier City couple arrested two weeks ago for allegedly carrying out a scheme to steal thousands of dollars and manipulating the sale of two residential properties from a dying man are out on bail.
Michael Cox, an attorney, and his wife, Sharon, were arrested and posted bail on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, respectively, in a case that has left many wondering what will become of Cox’s attorney standing in light of the allegations.
“I can’t comment on whether the allegations are true,” N. Gregory Smith, professional ethics professor of law at Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center recently told The Louisiana Record. “But we have a rule of professional conduct on which lawyers can be disciplined for violation.”
The rule that Smith referred to is Rule 8.4 Misconduct of the American Bar Association, which states, in part: “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act especially one that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”
In May 2012, Michael Cox, acting as the attorney for one of his clients, allegedly made his wife, Sharon, the client's power of attorney, according to the Bossier Sheriff's Office. Michael then wrote a will listing his wife as the sole heir to all of the victim's belongings, disinheriting the victim's only child.
Detectives alleged that Sharon, acting as the power of attorney, emptied out the victim’s bank account of roughly $69,000, and didn't make payments on the victim's credit card bills and other bills, which eventually added up to thousands of dollars in bank fees, late fees and interest.
In addition, while the victim was hospitalized, Michael allegedly sold the victim's two homes to Sharon for $100 each.
Michael Cox admitted to a judge in a civil case filed on behalf of the victim's child in October that he notarized the documents despite never being a commissioned notary in Louisiana.
He has been charged with felony theft, money laundering, and filing and maintaining false public records. Sharon Cox was charged with felony theft and money laundering.
Dane Ciolino, legal ethics expert and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans said it is likely Michael Cox will not be allowed to practice law if convicted of the charges.
“If those allegations are proved, then there is no doubt he [Michael Cox] will be permanently disbarred from the practice of law," Ciolino told The Louisiana Record.
Although Ciolino has come across other cases of lawyer misconduct, he found the allegations in this case surprising.
“I’ve heard of other egregious cases of lawyer misconduct, but this is as bad of a case of misconduct as one could imagine," he said. "If true, it’s a lawyer completely breaching the trust of his client and using legal skills to defraud an innocent client and child.”
Unfortunately, there is only so much a client can do to prevent becoming a victim of lawyer misconduct. Ciolino said although clients can do their due diligence and ask a lot of questions of their lawyers, a large portion of the attorney-client relationship is based on trust.