NEW ORLEANS — Shreveport attorney Joseph Christopher Miciotto recently was given a deferred suspension of one year and one day from practicing law, subject to two years of probation, by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
In its ruling on Nov. 18, the court handed down the suspension based on allegations against Miciotto involving inappropriately handling client funds.
According to the charges, Miciotto made three withdrawals from a Citizens Bank account during December 2006. The first withdrawal was made on Dec. 20, 2006, for a total of $8,000 made out to cash. The funds were meant for a medical provider on behalf of a personal-injury client and had already been distributed via checks. The bank honored both the checks and the withdrawal.
A second withdrawal was made on Dec. 21, 2006. A $1,900 check was made out to a client for their worker’s compensation claim. Miciotto allegedly had the client cash the check and kept all but $400 of the funds.
The final withdrawal was made on Dec. 27, 2006, for $3,000 made payable to cash. The withdrawal total of $12,900 forced the account into a $9,300 overdraft on Dec. 29, 2006.
Miciotto sought help in January 2007 for a gambling addiction. He was referred to an addiction-recovery program by the therapist he initially sought out and made a report of his misconduct to the ODC. The attorney’s father reimbursed the account for the withdrawn funds.
Official charges were filed against Miciotto by the ODC in April 2014 claiming that Miciotto violated 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which involves safekeeping client funds and property. The matter was brought to a hearing committee on Feb. 4, 2016.
The hearing committee took many aspects of his addiction and treatment into account when making its ruling. Miciotto’s actions were solely because of his gambling addiction, for which he has successfully completed treatment. He has had no relapse in the years since the incident as confirmed by his second and current wife as well as his current employer. He also voluntarily put himself on the state's gambling-exclusion lists. The attorney took time off from law after completing treatment to instead become an award-winning public-school teacher. Upon his return to the legal profession, he informed the ODC as he had done immediately following the withdrawals of funds.
The disciplinary board decreed that Miciotto would be deferred as long as he continues his addiction treatment and works under the supervision of his current boss for one year.
According to his profile page on www.lawyers.com, Miciotto attended the University of Oklahoma City School of Law and was admitted to the Louisiana Bar Association in 1998.
The Louisiana Supreme Court is in New Orleans and was established in 1813 as the highest court in the state.