PEOPLE v. WHITING No. 26548, 26824.
539 P.2d 128 (1975)
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, v. Charles E. WHITING, Attorney-Respondent.
Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.
August 18, 1975.
J. D. MacFarlane, Atty. Gen., Edwin L. Felter, Jr., Deputy Atty. Gen., Denver, for the People.
No appearance for attorney-respondent.
Original proceedings in discipline were filed in this court by the attorney general wherein the defendant, Charles E. Whiting, was charged by formal complaint with acts of professional misconduct, alleged to be contrary to the highest standards of honesty, justice and morality. The respondent, it was alleged, had agreed to represent clients in some eight lawsuits pending in the courts of Garfield and Eagle Counties, Colorado. Notwithstanding his obligations to his clients, the respondent, on or about April 18, 1974, closed his office in Glenwood Springs and left the state of Colorado without advising his clients or the courts of his intention to do so, essentially abandoning all matters.
A formal hearing was held before the Grievance Committee of the Supreme Court on March 19, 1975. The respondent did not appear in person or by counsel. Based primarily upon the testimony of Charles F. Stewart, Chief Judge, Ninth Judicial District, the Grievance Committee made findings of fact which support the allegations of the complaint. We agree.
More specifically, the Grievance Committee found that the respondent was admitted to the practice of law by this court on or about October 6, 1970. He was practicing law in Glenwood Springs, Garfield County, Colorado, when on or about April 18, 1974, he closed his office and left that community without advising his clients, any of the judges in that district, court personnel or opposing counsel in pending cases. He left no forwarding address when he closed his office, and
Further, respondent did not leave a new address in the office of the clerk of this court, as required by Rule 227(4) within thirty days of his change of address. Correspondence, service of process, and finally a certified letter addressed to Charles E. Whiting, 812 Grand Avenue, P.O. Box 1041, Glenwood Springs, Colorado 81601, postmarked February 26, 1975, which contained a notice of the hearing of the Grievance Committee, was returned by the United States Post Office marked "not deliverable as addressed—unable to forward," together with another notation on the envelope marked "box closed—no order Glenwood Springs, Colo. 81601." Respondent did not appear at the hearing and was found to be in default.
The committee further found:
The committee concluded that the foregoing action of the respondent constituted unprofessional conduct and gross negligence in that respondent has conducted himself contrary to the highest standards of the legal profession by abandoning his clients, by violating his obligations to his clients in not proceeding with the case assignments that he had been employed to pursue.
The committee recommended to the court that the respondent be disbarred and that the costs of these proceedings be assessed against him. The committee further recommended that the Chief Judge, Charles F. Stewart, take possession of the files of the respondent and arrange for any reassignment of the cases still pending.
We adopt the findings of the committee and concur in its recommendations. The findings of the Grievance Committee that the conduct of the respondent is contrary to the highest standards of honesty, justice and morality is based upon a flagrant violation of his oath as an attorney. This is a case of mass abandonment of the interests of his entire clientele which indicates a complete lack of responsibility on the part of the respondent.
We are in complete accord with the recommendation of the committee and accordingly, it is ordered that the respondent be disbarred. Costs in the amount of $46.76 are taxed to the respondent and he is ordered to pay that amount to the Clerk of the Supreme Court within 90 days.
GROVES and ERICKSON, JJ., do not participate.
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