METAIRIE – The official Office of Disciplinary Council (ODC) recommendation of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) document to suspend attorney Mark Anthony Johnson for one year and one day was filed on July 6.
The report explained that Johnson was admitted to the practice of law in the state of Louisiana on Dec. 22, 1994. It was further reported that he is currently in eligible to practice law and has been since May 31, 2014, for failure to maintain his mandatory continuing legal education credits.
“Additionally, he was declared ineligible by order of the Louisiana Supreme Court effective Sept. 9, 2014, for failure to file his annual registration, pay his bar dues, pay the disciplinary assessment, and file his trust account disclosure statement,” the report said. “Most recently, he was further rendered ineligible effective Sept. 9, 2015 for failure to file his trust account disclosure form.”
The ODC also forwarded notice of the complaint to Johnson at his mailing address, which was signed as received. He still failed to respond, which lead to the issuance of a subpoena. After the subpoena, Johnson responded.
“During the course of his sworn statement, taken on Dec. 9, 2015, he was given certain instructions to address his ineligibility with the various entities, including the MCLE (Mandatory Continuing Legal Education) committee, the LSBA (Louisiana State Bar) and the LADB,” the report said.
Johnson still failed to offer the requested information and, because of this, he was accused of violating or attempting to violate the rules of professional conduct. The formal charges included three accounts: practicing law while ineligible; conviction of driving while intoxicated; and failure to cooperate with the ODC.
The report explained that the investigation commenced following a complaint from Brandon Brown, general counsel for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LDTD). Brown alleged that Johnson had been employed by them as a staff attorney since July 11, 2013.
“As a member of the real estate unit, Johnson's primary responsibility was to provide advice and representation on expropriation matters,” the report said. “On June 12, 2015, Mr. Brown learned that Johnson was not eligible to practice law, having been declared in eligible by order of the Louisiana Supreme Court.”
According to Johnson’s registration records, he was declared ineligible to practice law as early as May 31, 2014, but he continued to practice law during this period of ineligibility, which is in violation of law and the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The report further explained that another investigative subpoena was issued on Oct. 28, 2015, and on Dec. 9, Johnson did appear to give sworn testimony to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
“During the course of the statement, Johnson was specifically instructed to take appropriate steps to remedy has an eligibility,” they report said.
Despite this, he did not follow any of their instructions.
Count one of the formal charges alleged that Johnson engaged in the practice of law during a period of ineligibility. In count two, Johnson acknowledged his arrest for driving while intoxicated. In count three, it was stated that Johnson repeatedly failed to cooperate with the investigation or to take appropriate steps to address his ineligibility.
“He caused needless delay and expenditure of resources,” the ODC said.
The ODC argued that, collectively, the multiple violations of the rules of professional conduct require a minimum one year and one day suspension from the practice of law.
“In mitigation the organization acknowledges that Johnson has no prior disciplinary record other than the prior determinations of his ineligibility,” the ODC said.
In aggravation, the ODC pointed to the following factors: a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses, and substantial experience in the practice of law. The hearings recommendation requested Johnson’s suspension and to cover all costs of the disciplinary proceedings.