NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Record) — Baton Rouge attorney Dante Jerome Butler is on partially deferred suspension following a May 8 Louisiana Supreme Court attorney disciplinary proceeding over allegations he improperly shared legal fees earned by non-attorneys at a quasi-legal center in St. Tammany Parish.
In its 16-page disciplinary proceeding, the court suspended Butler for 18 months with all but one year deferred, to be followed by a year of unsupervised, conditional probation. Successful completion of the Louisiana State Bar Association's ethics school is one of the conditions of Butler's probation.
Butler also was ordered to pay all costs in the matter.
The court's decision followed a recommendation for suspension issued by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) in November. The LADB's recommendation had been milder than that previously issued by a hearing committee, which urged Butler be suspended for three years and ordered to pay full restitution, in addition to paying all costs and expenses.
Butler was admitted to the bar in Louisiana Oct. 20, 2011, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website. Butler had no prior discipline before the state bar, according to the disciplinary proceeding.
Allegations against Butler stemmed from his work at the Knowledge Center Temple in Slidell, which assists prisoners in post-conviction proceedings, in which he was alleged to have improperly shared legal fees earned by non-attorneys and proofread their work. Butler testified before the heating committee that he knew temple representative, Charles Taylor, and Taylor's assistant, Shawna Terrell, who approached him to do review work, were not attorneys.
A former Knowledge Center Temple client filed a complaint against Butler in October 2016, and the office of disciplinary counsel filed formal charges against the attorney the following May. Butler was alleged to have violated professional conduct rules, including those regarding not sharing legal fees with a nonattorney and not assisting nonattorneys to practice law.
In his answer to the formal charges, Butler admitted that he agreed to proofread legal Taylor and Terrell performed but denied entering attorney-client relationships with Knowledge Center Temple clients.
"He further denied that he acted knowingly or intentionally in facilitating the unauthorized practice of law or in sharing legal fees with nonlawyers, and suggested that 'his misconduct, if any, was committed negligently,'" the disciplinary proceeding said.