The Counsel for Discipline of the Nebraska Supreme Court, relator, filed formal charges against Frank E. Robak, Sr., for violations of the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct and his oath of office as an attorney. Robak failed to respond. We then granted relator's motion for judgment on the pleadings limited to the facts but reserved ruling on the appropriate discipline. Robak defaulted in submitting a brief. We now conclude that the uncontested violations and the state of our record mandate that we indefinitely suspend Robak from the practice of law.
Robak was admitted to the practice of law in Nebraska in September 1983. At all relevant times, he engaged in the practice of law in Omaha, Nebraska.
The record in this case is composed of the uncontested formal charges. In May 2013, C.H. retained Robak to represent
C.H. filed a grievance. Relator sent C.H.'s grievance to Robak, and Robak provided a written response. Robak reported that he had been hospitalized several times since October 2014, that the illness took a toll on his law practice, that he informed C.H. he was "`not in a position'" to provide a full refund, and that he was on Social Security disability. Relator sent two written requests for additional information from Robak, but Robak failed to respond. The matter was upgraded to a formal grievance, but Robak did not respond.
Relator subsequently filed formal charges against Robak. According to the formal charges, Robak violated his oath of office as an attorney
Relator moved for judgment on the pleadings. Robak did not file an objection. We granted the motion as to the facts and directed the parties to brief the issue of discipline. Relator recommended a suspension of at least 2 years followed by 2 years of monitored probation. Robak did not file a brief.
Violation of a disciplinary rule concerning the practice of law is a ground for discipline.
Under Neb. Ct. R. § 3-304, we may impose one or more of the following disciplines: (1) disbarment; (2) suspension; (3) probation in lieu of or subsequent to suspension, on such terms as we may designate; or (4) censure and reprimand.
With respect to the imposition of attorney discipline in an individual case, we evaluate each attorney discipline case in light of its particular facts and circumstances.
The record on these formal charges establishes both client neglect and failure to cooperate with the disciplinary process. Robak failed to provide competent and diligent representation to C.H. and failed to communicate with him regarding his legal action. After C.H. filed a grievance, Robak initially responded to the grievance. But he thereafter failed to provide information requested by relator, failed to respond to the formal grievance notice, failed to file an answer to the formal complaint, and failed to file an answer to the formal charges.
Responding to inquiries and requests for information from relator is an important matter, and an attorney's cooperation with the discipline process is fundamental to the credibility of attorney disciplinary proceedings.
In responding to C.H.'s grievance, Robak alluded to health issues. But his failure to provide additional information and to answer the formal charges leaves this potential mitigating factor undeveloped. One factor weighs in Robak's favor. Robak has been licensed to practice law for 35 years, and the record does not show any previous discipline in Nebraska.
In considering the appropriate sanction, we are mindful of the sanctions imposed in similar cases. In several cases, we have indefinitely suspended the attorney. For example, in State ex rel. Counsel for Dis. v. Jorgenson,
In other similar cases, we have suspended the attorney for a set term followed by a probationary period. In State ex rel.
Under the facts of this case, we conclude that the appropriate discipline is an indefinite suspension, with a minimum suspension of 1 year, followed by 2 years' monitored probation. Any application for reinstatement filed by Robak after the minimum suspension period shall include a showing under oath which demonstrates his fitness to practice law and fully addresses the circumstances of the instant violation.
Upon reinstatement, Robak shall comply with the following terms of monitored probation: The monitoring shall be by an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Nebraska and who shall be approved of by the Counsel for Discipline. Robak shall submit a monitoring plan with his application for reinstatement which shall include, but not be limited to, the following: During the first 6 months of probation, Robak will meet with and provide the monitor a weekly list of cases for which Robak is currently responsible, which list shall include the date the attorney-client relationship began; the general type of case; the date of last contact with the client; the last type and date of work completed on the file (pleading, correspondence, document preparation, discovery, or court hearing); the next type of work and date that work should be completed on the case; any applicable statutes of limitations and their dates; and the financial terms of the relationship (hourly, contingency, et cetera). After the first 6 months through the end of probation, Robak shall meet with the monitor on a monthly basis and provide the monitor with a list containing the same information as set forth above. Robak shall work with the monitor to develop and implement appropriate office procedures to ensure protection of the clients' interests. Robak shall reconcile his trust account within 10 working days of receipt of the monthly bank statement and provide the monitor with a copy within 5 working days. Robak shall submit a quarterly compliance report to the Counsel for Discipline, demonstrating adherence to the foregoing terms of probation. The quarterly report shall include a certification by the monitor that the monitor has reviewed the report and that Robak continues to abide by the terms of probation. If at any time the monitor believes Robak has violated the professional conduct rules or has failed to comply with the terms of probation, the monitor shall report the same to the Counsel for Discipline. Robak shall pay all of the costs in this case, including the fees and expenses of the monitor, if any.
We order that Robak be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in the State of Nebraska, with a minimum suspension of 1 year, effective immediately. Robak may apply for reinstatement consistent
Robak shall comply with Neb. Ct. R. § 3-316 (rev. 2014), and upon failure to do so, he shall be subject to punishment for contempt of this court. Robak is also directed to pay costs and expenses in accordance with Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 7-114 and 7-115 (Reissue 2012) and Neb. Ct. R. §§ 3-310(P) (rev. 2014) and 3-323 within 60 days after an order imposing costs and expenses, if any, is entered by the court.
JUDGMENT OF SUSPENSION.