NEW ORLEANS – The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) has recommended that attorney Kenneth Michael Waguespack Jr. be permanently disbarred for professional misconduct in light of ODC findings.
The ODC hearing committee assigned to the matter found evidence that Waguespack violated nine rules of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct through acts that allegedly included writing checks with insufficient funds, forging checks, lack of communication or misleading communication with clients, failure to disburse money received from court settlements and failure to respond to certified letters from the ODC informing him of the complaints.
In its report, the committee found the ODC’s charges against Waguespack were substantiated through ODC documentation (complaints by clients and attorneys) and findings by the ODC auditor. Formal charges filed by the ODC last March included complaints by the following: Capital One Bank; Christopher M. Jones on behalf of Louisiana Primary Consultants; John Richard Haydel, Jr., Steve M. Irving and Glenda Haydel Folse; Steve and Paulette Fontenette; Stephen P. Bruno; and Debra LeBeau.
The complaint filed by Steve and Paulette Fontenette accused Waguespack of keeping settlement funds in excess of $12,000 in a claim to recover damages for hearing loss that Fontenette suffered as a result of his employment with Avondale Shipyards. Records showed that while the check was cashed, Fontenette said his signature was forged and he never received the funds.
Former client Debra LeBeau hired Waguespack to help her daughter, Angel Quillens, recover damages for injuries she sustained in an accident at Sears, Roebuck and Co. Waguespack had informed LeBeau of a one-time settlement of $15,000, and that he had expenses of over $7,000. He told LeBeau he would waive his attorney fee, leaving $7,324.62 to be awarded to Angel. LeBeau agreed to these terms, but her daughter never received the settlement. Despite her repeated attempts to call Waguespack and visit his office, she received no response.
The ODC refers to guidelines in the Louisiana Supreme Court (LASC) Rule XIX, Section 10(c) for determining discipline: whether or not the attorney violated a duty to a client, the public, the legal system or the profession; whether the attorney acted knowingly or intentionally; the amount of actual or potential injury caused by the attorney’s misconduct; and any aggravating or mitigating factors. Based on evidence, Waguespack soundly flunked the integrity barometer established by the LASC.
In making its recommendation, the committee wrote, “There are multiple aggravating factors, especially the multiple offenses and pattern of misconduct, as well as what has been shown to be a selfish motive. The mitigating factor of no prior disciplinary record is insufficient to overcome the aggravating factors proven by the ODC.”