Lafayette attorney Michael Sean Reid has been disbarred by the state Supreme Court after an investigation found he took money from clients and then disappeared, failing to take care of their cases or refund their money.
The disbarment is retroactive to December 2016, when Reid’s law license was suspended. Prior to that, he had told the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board that he needed to obtain treatment for depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other issues and wanted to voluntarily surrender his license.
The LADB investigation began when it was notified of bounced checks in his trust account. A trust account is the account into which attorneys deposit their clients’ funds. The accounts must be carefully balanced, to ensure that all money is properly spent, and any money due a client is protected. If a check bounces on a trust account, the LADB is notified by the bank.
When the board contacted Reid about the issues with his account, he allegedly admitted that he hadn’t take care of the account properly. But after that first contact, the board was unable to find Reid to talk to him again. According to a report on his case from the LADB, the charges against him include:
- A client who complained that her refund check from Reid bounced.
- A client who paid a retainer for a divorce case, and then was unable to find Reid because he closed his practice.
- Two clients who paid a retainer for a custody case, then were unable to find Reid because he closed his practice.
- A client who paid a large retainer for a custody case. She complained that Reid showed up for one hearing, then couldn’t be found again. His phone was disconnected. She ended up having to do all of her own work.
- A client who paid a retainer for a divorce case. Reid filed the divorce petition, but when the client called to check on it she found the law office phone disconnected and the office building empty. She called Reid’s cell phone but he wouldn’t answer.
- A client who paid a retainer for a divorce case, who said Reid told him a hearing was cancelled – but didn’t tell him it was rescheduled. When he tried to call Reid, the phone was disconnected. He had to hire another lawyer.
- A client who paid a retainer for a divorce case, who said Reid told him he needed to postpone a hearing because of his health issues. The client agreed, but then learned that Reid never filed the proper paperwork with the court. The client tried to get in touch with Reid but Reid wouldn’t call him back.
- A client who paid a retainer for a community property and custody case who said Reid didn’t do anything for her, despite promising to do so. She was unable to get in touch with him to find out why.
The board’s investigation found Reid in violation of nine rules of professional conduct. A hearing was held.
“In summary, it found that Respondent failed to act with diligence and promptness in representing his clients, failed to effectively communicate with his clients, abandoned his practice without notice to his clients, failed to hold his clients’ funds in trust, failed to refund unearned fees, intentionally engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation by converting the funds of his clients to his own use, failed to properly withdraw from his clients’ cases and intentionally failed to cooperate with the ODC in the
investigation of the matters,” the report states.
The Supreme Court agreed with the recommendation to disbar Reid, and ordered that he pay back his clients.
To read the entire LADB report, click here.