New Orleans attorney Michael Louis Martin has been suspended for two years following an Oct. 16 Louisiana Supreme Court disciplinary proceeding over allegations he mishandled his client trust account.
Martin also was ordered to pay restitution "as appropriate" and to pay all costs and expenses, plus interest, in the matter, according to the high court's six page disciplinary proceeding. "The record further supports a finding that [Martin] violated a duty owed to his clients," the proceeding said. "His conduct was grossly negligent and caused potential harm to his clients."
Martin allegedly violated professional conduct rules, including failing to safe keep property and making prohibited cash withdrawals and checks made payable to "cash" from his client trust account, according to the high court's six page disciplinary proceeding.
Martin was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on Oct. 5, 1984, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar's website. Martin had no other discipline before the state bar, according to the proceeding.
The state bar's office of disciplinary counsel (ODC) began an investigation after receiving notice that Martin's client trust account had been overdrawn times between Dec. 4, 2012, and Jan. 18, 2013. Martin did not respond to ODC requests for records and information about what steps he'd taken to resolve the matter, according to the disciplinary proceeding.
An ODC auditor later concluded Martin had converted and commingled client trust funds and had misused his trust account on numerous occasions by writing checks payable to cash and by paying personal bills from the account, the proceeding said.
In December 2015, the ODC filed formal charges against Martin, which he failed to answer and no formal hearing was held, although opportunities were provided to file written arguments and documentary evidence on the issue of sanctions with the hearing committee, according to the proceeding. Martin filed nothing for the hearing committee’s consideration, the disciplinary proceeding said.
"The record in this deemed admitted matter supports a finding that respondent grossly mishandled his client trust account, resulting in the commingling and conversion of client funds," the disciplinary proceeding said. "Based on these facts, [Martin] has violated the rules of professional conduct as charged."