NEW ORLEANS – On Sept. 6, the Supreme Court of Louisiana unanimously agreed to permanently disbar attorney Jose W. Vega based on multiple alleged violations of Rules of Professional Conduct.
Earlier in the year, Vega resigned from practicing law in the state of Texas in lieu of disciplinary proceedings. The state of Louisiana was informed of Vega’s conduct and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) filed a petition seeking the imposition of reciprocal discipline against him.
In the Sept. 6 official court document, the ODC offered a considerable list of underlying facts and procedural history that outlined Vega’s allegedly repeated misconduct with his clients (38 different cases in the report), including not keeping clients reasonably informed, refunding any unearned fees after termination of services and not responding in a timely manner to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s (CDC) requests.
“In February 2016, (Vega) filed with the Supreme Court of Texas a ‘Motion for Acceptance of Resignation as Attorney and Counselor at Law’ in lieu of discipline,” the official court document said. “The Chief Disciplinary Counsel (CDC) of the State Bar of Texas filed a response to the motion, agreeing that acceptance of respondent’s resignation in lieu of discipline is in the best interest of the public and the legal profession.”
The Louisiana courts have reprimanded Vega prior to their new findings, and he was ineligible to practice for lack of maintaining Louisiana bar requirements.
“(Vega) is currently ineligible to practice law in Louisiana for failing to pay bar dues and the disciplinary assessment, failing to fulfill mandatory continuing legal education requirements, and failing to file a trust account disclosure statement,” the court document said. “In September 2013, we publicly reprimanded (him) as reciprocal discipline based on public reprimands he received in two separate proceedings in Texas.”
Because of Vega’s repeated infractions and multiple cases under review in Texas, the Louisiana court agreed to follow similar disciplinary proceedings, but with some additions.
“Under these circumstances, we believe it is appropriate to defer to the Texas judgment imposing discipline upon (Vega),” the court said. “The discipline imposed in Texas was the acceptance of (his) resignation from the practice of law in lieu of discipline, with a list of conditions if (he) wishes to be reinstated to the practice of law in Texas in the future.”
The courts further explain, though, that in Louisiana, resignation from the practice of law in lieu of discipline is accepted, but the rules also prohibit reinstatement to the practice of law in Louisiana following resignation in lieu of discipline.
“Specifically, Rule XIX, § 20.1(F) provides: A request for permanent resignation in lieu of discipline which is granted by the court shall, as a condition thereto, permanently prohibit the lawyer from practicing law in Louisiana or in any other jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to the practice of law; permanently prohibit the lawyer from seeking readmission to the practice of law in this state or in any other jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted; and permanently prohibit the lawyer from seeking admission to the practice of law in any jurisdiction,” the court said.
Thus, acceptance of Vega’s resignation from the practice of law in lieu of discipline in Louisiana would permanently prohibit him from seeking reinstatement in Louisiana and/or Texas, which is not equivalent to the discipline imposed in Texas.
“An examination of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure reveals that resignation in lieu of discipline in Texas is equivalent to disbarment in Louisiana,” the court said.
In light of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, the most equivalent reciprocal discipline the court could impose upon Vega is permanent disbarment.