NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Record) — New Orleans attorney Tyrone F. Watkins has received a fully deferred suspension and probation following a Nov. 14 Louisiana Supreme Court attorney disciplinary proceeding after he allegedly failed to expedite a client's expungement case.
The state Supreme Court handed down a fully deferred three-month suspension against Watkins, subject to a year of conditional probation.
"Any failure of [Watkins] to comply with these conditions, or any misconduct during the probationary period, may be grounds for making the deferred suspension executory, or imposing additional discipline, as appropriate," the high court's seven-page attorney disciplinary proceeding said.
Watkins also was ordered to pay all costs in the matter. His probationary period will commence from the date he and the office of disciplinary counsel sign a formal probation plan.
Watkins was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on April 20, 2001, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website. Watkins had no prior discipline before the state bar, according to attorney disciplinary proceeding.
Charges against Watkins stemmed from a complaint filed by a former client who hired him in August 2015 to represent the client in expungement of four criminal convictions.
Watkins stipulated to professional conduct rules violations regarding communication, failing to return an unearned fee, improper termination of representation and failing to expedite litigation, according to the attorney disciplinary proceeding. A hearing committee previously found he also violated a professional conduct rule regarding diligence.
In August the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommended Watkins receive fully deferred three- month suspension and probation.
Watkins "admitted he 'dropped the ball' after his client's expungement case became more complex than anticipated, the state Supreme Court's attorney disciplinary proceeding said.
"[Watkins] then testified that, although he had handled approximately a dozen expungements previously, they were all routine and unopposed," the attorney disciplinary proceeding said. "When the state objected to the two expungements he filed, [Watkins] became aware of a change in law that posed additional obstacles to the relief sought."
Watkins testified to not intentionally neglecting his client's expungement case or evading his client's communication efforts but that he did ultimately forget about about the case "with the passage of time and the press of other work," the disciplinary proceeding said.