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In re Disciplinary Involving Collins

Supreme Court of Alaska

August 11, 2017

In the Disciplinary Matter Involving BRYON E. COLLINS, Attorney.

         ABA File Nos. 2013D081/ 2015D044/2015D048

          Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices. [Carney, Justice, not participating.]

          ORDER

         1. This disciplinary matter concerns an uncontested recommendation by the Alaska Bar Association's Disciplinary Board that Bryon Collins be disbarred.

         2. Bar Counsel filed a Petition for Formal Hearing against Collins with the Disciplinary Board. Collins and Bar Counsel initially stipulated to Collins's disbarment, but the Disciplinary Board rejected the stipulation. The Disciplinary Board refused to approve a stipulation that did not include Collins's agreement that a formal enforceable money judgment for $30, 763 be entered against him, reflecting the amount paid by the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (LFCP) in connection with one of the client matters underlying the uncontested disbarment.[1] Collins declined because such a stipulation provision had never before been required by the Disciplinary Board and he did not want to set precedent by stipulation, believing that any such change in enforcement should come from this court.

         3. The Petition was then presented to an Area Hearing Committee.[2]The Petition set out the disciplinary matter's facts, which we summarize below.

         A. First Disciplinary Matter

         Collins represented a client under a 25% contingency fee agreement for an employment discrimination claim. In 2012 an administrative judge awarded the client $41, 018, which was paid to Collins. In May 2013 the client filed a grievance alleging that Collins had: failed to appeal the administrative judge's decision; never paid the client any money; never accounted for the money or responded to requests for information; and failed to deliver the client's file to the client's new lawyer. Bar Counsel requested that Collins respond to the grievance; he did not respond.

         Bar Counsel opened a formal investigation in November 2013 and notified Collins of his obligation to respond to the client's allegations. After extensions of time Collins responded in January 2014 that he believed he owed the client $12, 500, but he did not provide a substantive accounting. Collins offered to pay the client $ 12, 500 if the client agreed that would resolve the matter; Bar Counsel asked Collins for further information. After more delay Collins responded in July with documents that did not account for the client's funds or otherwise respond to Bar Counsel's information request. Collins acknowledged that his document production was incomplete and represented that he would supplement his production in two weeks. Collins did not supplement his original production.

         In December Bar Counsel asked us to suspend Collins from the practice of law based on his failure to account for the client's funds or fully respond to Bar Counsel's information requests. Collins did not respond. In January 2015 we suspended Collins from the practice of law for failure to respond appropriately to Bar Counsel's requests for information about the client's grievance.

         In July the client filed a claim with the LFCP. Collins appeared for a September hearing; he asked for and received a continuance to complete his preparation and to submit documents, but he then did not submit any documents. At the next hearing Collins did not appear, but his lawyer appeared and asked for yet another continuance. The LFCP hearing committee denied the continuance request and proceeded with the hearing. At the hearing's conclusion the committee found that Collins had received and spent the client's funds and that there was no evidentiary explanation for Collins's prior assertion that he owed the client only $12, 500. The committee concluded that Collins dishonestly converted $30, 763 of the client's funds and recommended that the client be paid from the LFCP. In October the Bar Association's Board of Governors agreed that a reimbursable loss had occurred and approved payment from the LFCP.

         B. Second Disciplinary Matter

         A different client retained Collins to represent him in a real estate matter. R. 10] The client advanced Collins $2, 500. But Collins took no action on the client's behalf; failed to provide progress reports or responses to the client's information requests; failed to account for the client's funds; and failed to respond to formal demands for client records, accountings, and funds. Bar Counsel opened a formal investigation in August 2015 and sent Collins a request for information. Collins did not respond.

         C. Third Disciplinary Matter

         Bar Counsel learned that during 2015 - after we suspended Collins from practicing law - Collins actively represented a bankruptcy debtor, including preparing legal documents for the bankruptcy proceedings and forming a new limited liability company. It appeared that Collins also actively participated in a separate civil matter by negotiating a settlement plan on the debtor's behalf. Bar Counsel opened a ...


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