NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Record) — Longtime River Ridge attorney John Edward Whalen Jr. faces possible suspension following a recommendation issued Aug. 28 by a Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) hearing committee over his mishandling of an estate.
In its six-page recommendation, LADB hearing committee No. 8 urged the Louisiana Supreme Court to suspend Whalen for three years and that he be ordered to pay restitution, in addition to costs and expenses.
The recommendation was signed Aug. 23 by committee chair Darryl J. Foster and was issued five days later. Attorney member Monique M. Lafontaine and public member Vickie E. Shreves concurred in the recommendation.
Whalen was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on April 23, 1993, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association’s website. No prior discipline before the state bar is listed in Whalen's profile and a search of the LADB's online database of disciplinary decisions and rulings also turned up no prior record of discipline.
Allegations against Whalen stem from a complaint to the office of disciplinary counsel in August 2016 alleging Whalen "committee various acts of misconduct" in handling the succession his client's mother, for which Whalen had been hired in about five years earlier, the recommendation said.
Whalen admitted to the office of disciplinary counsel that he did not provide his client with an accounting, which he provided to the office of disciplinary counsel in March 2017 and which was forwarded to the client, according to the recommendation.
Whalen allegedly received an unreasonable fee for his services, about $280,475, and the client "detailed all of the discrepancies and problems" with Whalen's accounting and complained the attorney did not adequately communicate with her. Whalen also admitted to the office of disciplinary counsel that any amount in his accounting that he could not document were labeled as attorney fees, "evidencing conversion," the recommendation said.
The office of disciplinary counsel alleged he violated professional conduct rules regarding diligence and failures to communicate, deposit advanced fees, costs and expenses into a trust account, return an unearned fee and render an accounting.
Whalen did not file an answer to the office of disciplinary counsel's formal charges and in April the factual allegations were deemed admitted, according to the recommendation.