The state Supreme Court has suspended New Iberia attorney Alicia Johnson Butler for six months.
In a release issued today, the Supreme Court stated that Butler’s suspension is technically one year and a day, but six months of that was deferred while she’s on probation.
During the six month suspension, she cannot practice law, the release states.
Butler was disciplined because of the way she handled a personal injury case. Her client in the case made several complaints about her to the state disciplinary board, but only some of the complaints were found to be valid.
After an investigation and a hearing, it was decided that Butler didn’t properly handle the money she received for her client in settlement of the suit.
In that case, the client had received “med-pay” benefits from her own insurance company before she hired Butler. That means her insurance company paid her back for medical bills she had paid. When a case is settled, your insurance company is entitled to get that money back; they do that by placing a lien on the settlement proceeds. Butler’s client didn’t tell her about her medpay lien until after the case was settled, the report states.
When Butler and her client sat down to divvy up the settlement proceeds, they couldn’t agree on what medical bills should be paid. But instead of paying the “undisputed amounts” owed to her client and some of her medical providers, Butler kept that portion of the proceeds and bought a certificate of deposit with it, saying she was “protecting” her client’s money.
Under the rules that govern Louisiana attorneys, she shouldn’t have done that, the disciplinary board decided. She should have paid the undisputed amounts and deposited the remainder in the registry of the court or in her trust account, the board decided.
The board found that Butler was very cooperative with the investigation, but she did have a prior discipline on her record. In the end, it was decided to suspend her for a year, with six months deferred while she completes a two-year probation period.
If you’d like to read the full opinion, you can do so here.