Louisiana Record

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Baton Rouge attorney disbarred after allegedly converting $360,000 in client funds

Attorneys & Judges

By Karen Kidd | Jan 2, 2020

Nujusticescales

NEW ORLEANS – Longtime Baton Rouge attorney Durward D. Casteel has been disbarred following a Dec. 20 Louisiana Supreme Court attorney disciplinary proceeding after he admitted to using hundreds of thousands of dollars in client funds for himself.

In its six-page attorney disciplinary proceeding, the Supreme Court found that Casteel's conduct met "all the criteria for disbarment."

"As noted by the hearing committee, [Casteel] acted with a dishonest and selfish motive," the disciplinary proceeding said. "By converting $360,000 in client funds to his own use, he acted in a manner that was inconsistent with his clients' interest."

Casteel also committed forgery as part of his client fund conversion in one of the two matters from which allegations against him arose, according to the disciplinary proceeding.

"The duration of the deprivation of funds for his clients has been extensive, as [Casteel] has not made restitution to either of his clients," the disciplinary proceeding said.

One of the clients has a claim pending with the Louisiana State Bar Association's Client Assistance Fund over $350,000 in funds Casteel admitted he converted, according to the disciplinary proceeding. That money had been earmarked for settlement in a case filed against the client.

"Under the circumstances, disbarment is the appropriate sanction in this case," the disciplinary proceeding said.

The Supreme Court also ordered Casteel to pay restitution to his clients, in addition to all costs and expenses in the matters.

Casteel was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on Oct. 7, 1988, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website. Casteel had no prior history of discipline, according to the disciplinary proceeding.

Since September 2018, Casteel has been ineligible to practice law in Louisiana because of unpaid bar and disciplinary dues and noncompliance with continuing legal education requirements, according to information on his state bar profile.

In November 2018, Casteel was voluntarily and indefinitely suspended.

Last June, a Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) hearing committee issued a recommendation that Casteel be disbarred.

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Louisiana State Bar AssociationLouisiana Supreme Court

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