NEW ORLEANS — Attorney N. Dawn Harper recently was suspended from practicing law for three years by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The ruling, which came down on Nov. 15, 2016, stems from five complaints received by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) from January to August 2014. Harper has been ineligible to practice law since May 2014 because of not continuing legal education in addition to not paying her Louisiana State Bar dues.
The first complaint was the result of a divorce case the attorney took on in January 2012. The client paid Harper’s $1,300 fee to represent her in her divorce, community property partition matter and custody proceedings. According to court documents, after obtaining the judgment regarding custody, Harper allegedly ceased to return the client’s phone calls and closed her practice. As of the time of the ruling, the client still had not been granted a divorce.
Another incident involving Harper occurred in June 2014. The complaint against Harper was filed by a judge who presided over a juvenile case the attorney worked on. Harper represented the defendant in the case despite being ineligible to practice law. When questioned about the issue by the judge, Harper allegedly claimed that her ineligibility would begin in July 2014.
In October 2013, Harper was paid $300 on a “contingency fee basis” to represent her client in a claim of a loan payment being misapplied by a finance company. The complaint states that Harper did file a petition for damages on behalf of her client, but a similar incident to the first claim arose when the attorney allegedly neglected to return the client’s phone calls and closed her practice without providing notice.
The fourth complaint against Harper stemmed from a case in April 2014. Harper receive a $700 payment toward her $2,500 fixed fee. Though the attorney drafted a petition, she allegedly did not follow through with filing.
The final incident occurred in January 2014 when, according to court documents, Harper was hired for $3,000 to represent a client in “two legal matters: an appeal of a denial of insurance benefits for his disabled brother and a custody matter.” An adverse ruling was handed down in the former case, a fact that was never relayed to the client. Because of that, the client is unable to appeal the ruling.
The ODC collected the complaints and filed charges against Harper in July 2015. The charges were then passed to the Hearing Committee, which determined that Harper had violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. The committee also ruled that Harper had violated duties owed to her clients.
The state Supreme Court then decreed that Harper would be suspended from practicing law for three years and ordered the attorney to refund unearned fees to her clients.