Louisiana Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hearing committee backs disbarment for Baton Rouge attorney over allegations in slip-and-fall case


By Karen Kidd | Aug 1, 2019


NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Record) — Baton Rouge attorney Michael Treaman Bell faces possible disbarment following a recommendation issued July 31 by a Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) hearing committee over multiple allegations of misconduct.

In its 11-page recommendation, LADB hearing committee No. 62 alleged Bell engaged in criminal conduct, provided inadequate and incompetent legal services, settled a personal injury case without the client's authorization and charged or attempted to charge interest on a loan to a client. The committee also alleged Bell failed to safeguard funds belonging to the client, converted those funds and failed to pay the client’s medical bills.

"In doing so [Bell] caused actual harm to his client, the profession, the public and the legal system," the recommendation said. "For this reason, the committee recommends the sanction of disbarment."

The recommendation was signed July 30 by committee chair Kenneth P. Mathews and was issued the following day. Attorney member Amanda B. Massey and public member Paul F. Delaup concurred in the recommendation.

Bell was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on Dec. 6, 2001, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website.

Allegations against Bell stem from his representation of a client in a slip and fall case for which he was hired in September 2015, and over which the client filed a complaint with the office of disciplinary counsel in December 2017, according to the recommendation. 

Bell did not initially cooperate with the office of disciplinary counsel's investigation, according to the recommendation. He allegedly violated professional conduct rules, including those regarding diligence, communication, charging unreasonable fees, interest on client loans, authorization to settle and endorse, safekeeping of client property and criminal acts.

Bell did not timely file an answer to the office of disciplinary counsel's formal charges and in March the factual allegations were deemed admitted, the recommendation stated

In a prior discipline, Bell was publicly reprimanded following an April 2016 Supreme Court order after commencement of an investigation by the office of disciplinary counsel into allegations Bell "engaged in conduct constituting a conflict of interest." On that occasion, Bell reached a joint petition for consent discipline before formal charges were filed.

Bell was suspended 2012 to 2013, according to the recommendation.

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Louisiana State Bar AssociationLouisiana Attorney Disciplinary BoardLouisiana Supreme Court

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