January 24, 2014
IN THE MATTER OF BRADLEY L. AKLESTAD, A Suspended Attorney at Law, Respondent.
Jon G. Moog Deputy Disciplinary Counsel.
By request of a Review Panel of the Commission on Practice, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for the State of Montana hereby charges Bradley L. Aklestad with professional misconduct as follows:
1. Bradley L. Aklestad, hereinafter referred to as Respondent, was admitted to the practice of law in the State of Montana in 2004, at which time he took the oath required for admission, wherein he agreed to abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Disciplinary Rules adopted by the Supreme Court, and the highest standards of honesty, justice and morality, including but not limited to, those outlined in parts 3 and 4 of Chapter 61, Title 37, Montana Code Annotated.
2. The Montana Supreme Court has approved and adopted the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct ("MRPC"), governing the ethical conduct of attorneys licensed to practice in the State of Montana, which Rules were in effect at all times mentioned in this Complaint.
3. ODC realleges and incorporates paragraphs 1 through 2 of the General Allegations as if fully restated in this Count One.
4. On February 25, 2010, Respondent submitted a notice of appearance in the probate matter of the Estate of Donald Coons, Toole County District Court Cause No. DP-2004-045.
5. Respondent's appearance was a substitution of counsel from his deceased associate Rae Kalbfleisch and was in response to the court's Order to Show Cause why the Estate remained open.
6. Respondent's appearance was on behalf of the Estate's personal representative, Terry Coons, the son of the decedent Donald Coons.
7. Respondent also submitted a Notice to the court on February 25, 2010, stating that he had been retained by the personal representative and expected to complete the matter within the following six months.
8. Respondent failed to complete the matter as indicated, and the court issued another Order to Show Cause why the Estate remained open on February 4, 2011. However, Respondent failed to respond to the order.
9. The court issued yet another Order to Show Cause why the Estate remained open on January 6, 2012. Respondent again failed to respond.
10. Having received no response, the court issued an Order on April 30, 2012, directing the closure of the case within 30 days absent action by the personal representative.
11. In another disciplinary matter, Respondent was indefinitely suspended from the practice of law effective June 15, 2012.
12. On July 2, 2012, the Estate matter was closed by the clerk of court based on inactivity.
13. At or before the closure, Respondent failed to notify the personal representative that the Estate was ordered to be closed, that Respondent was suspended from the practice of law, or otherwise advise his client of the status of the matter.
14. In or around December 2012, the personal representative contacted the Toole County Attorney for assistance in retrieving Respondent's file. Despite repeated requests to produce the file and original documents in his possession, Respondent failed to comply.
15. In or around January 2013, the personal representative contacted the State Bar and learned that Respondent had been suspended. The personal representative then obtained new counsel, Flint Murfitt, who advised that the matter had been closed for inactivity. Murfitt then entered his appearance on April 25, 2013, and moved to reopen the Estate.
16. By Order dated April 26, 2013, the Estate was reopened and the personal representative was reappointed. The Estate was then administered and decree of discharge was issued on November 26, 2013.
17. Respondent's conduct, as described herein, violated Rule 1.3, MRPC, as he failed to act diligently in representing the personal representative or to respond to repeated Orders to Show Cause within the Estate.
18. Respondent's conduct, as described herein, violated Rule 1.4, MRPC, as he failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of his probate matter or that Respondent had been suspended from the practice of law.
19. Respondent's conduct, as described herein, violated Rule 1.16(a) and (d), MRPC, as he did not provide notice to his client that the representation was terminated by operation of his suspension or take reasonable steps to protect his client's interest by surrendering the file and important documents in Respondent's possession.
20. ODC realleges and incorporates paragraphs 1 through 2 of the General Allegations and paragraphs 4 through 16 of Count One as if fully restated in this Count Two.
21. On July 3, 2013, ODC received an ethics grievance against Respondent submitted by the personal representative and his new counsel, Flint Murffit, concerning Respondent's lack of communication and diligence, and refusal to return important documents necessary for the transfer of assets. ODC docketed this matter as ODC File No. 13-143.
22. By letters dated July 23 and August 19, 2013, sent via first class mail, ODC directed Respondent to respond to the grievance. Respondent was requested to provide his response within 21 days from the dates of the letters. Respondent failed to respond.
23. By letter dated September 16, 2013, sent via first class and certified mail, return receipt requested, ODC again directed Respondent to respond to the complaint. Respondent was requested to provide his response within 10 days from the date of the letter. Respondent acknowledged receipt of the certified mailing on September 17, 2013, but again failed to respond.
24. Respondent's conduct, as described herein, constitutes a violation of 8.1(b), MRPC.
25.Respondent's failure to promptly and fully respond to inquiries from Disciplinary Counsel is, in accordance with Rule 8A(6), RLDE (2011), a ground for discipline.
WHEREFORE, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel prays:
1. That a Citation be issued to the Respondent, to which shall be attached a copy of the complaint, requiring Respondent, within twenty (20) days after service thereof, to file a written answer to the complaint;
2. That a formal hearing be had on the allegations of this complaint before an Adjudicatory Panel of the Commission;
3. That the Adjudicatory Panel of the Commission make a report of its findings and recommendations after a formal hearing to the Montana Supreme Court, and, in the event the Adjudicatory Panel finds the facts warrant disciplinary action and recommends discipline, that the Commission also recommend the nature and extent of appropriate disciplinary action, and,
4. For such other and further relief as deemed necessary and proper.