A Lafayette attorney was disbarred after the Louisiana Supreme Court found he overcharged his client attorney fees, neglected his client's legal matter and lied during disciplinary proceedings.
The Supreme Court issued its findings Wednesday, agreeing with a disciplinary board's recommendation that Brad Andrus be disbarred and required him to pay any money back to his client as determined by an arbitrator.
"The record before us supports a finding that (Andrus) engaged in serious attorney misconduct," the court wrote in its decision.
"He neglected his client’s legal matter, charged and collected an unreasonable fee, converted client funds held in his trust account, failed to return his client’s file upon request and engaged in deceptive and dishonest behavior in the course of this disciplinary proceeding," the court wrote.
In 2014, Andrus was representing a client after the man's Branch, Louisiana, home sustained water and mold damages as the result of a broken water line. The man's insurance company offered payments for the repairs in October 2014, which were deposited into the man's client trust account, according to court records.
In December 2016, the man fired Andrus and requested his file. Andrus did not comply, according to court records.
What did the disciplinary investigation find?
The man filed a complaint against Andrus with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in August 2017 claiming he did not receive any of the insurance money and didn't know how his insurance money had been spent.
Andrus said the money was put into the trust account and that the man wanted Andrus to pay for his home's repairs from that account. Andrus said the money had been used to pay legal fees the client owed him, a carpenter and cabinet installer.
A hearing committee later found that Andrus fabricated the cabinet invoices and cash receipts for the carpenter.
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While being investigated by the disciplinary counsel, Andrus asked for two extensions before he responded. When his response was due, he told the office he spent "many, many hours" preparing a response but his laptop had been stolen from his truck the night before, according to court records.
Andrus gave the board a voluntary statement that he said he gave the Church Point Police Department about the burglary. The committee contacted the police department and Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office but neither had any records that Andrus' truck had been burglarized, according to court records.
The disciplinary counsel went to Andrus' law firm in Lafayette in March 2018 to serve a subpoena for a sworn statement. The investigator saw Andrus in the parking lot and said he was there to serve him with the subpoena.
Andrus told the investigator he was not Brad Andrus, but his twin brother, according to court documents. When the investigator went into the firm to find Brad Andrus, the receptionist said he had just left the office moments before.
The disciplinary counsel filed formal charges against Andrus in January 2019 alleging he violated several Rules of Professional Conduct including failure to communicate with a client, charging an unreasonable fee, knowingly making a false statement in connection with a disciplinary matter and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
Andrus denied the allegations.
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The disciplinary counsel found Andrus violated most of the charges against him but said it did not find clear evidence Andrus fabricated the invoices and receipts.
A disciplinary board later determined there was clear and convincing evidence Andrus fabricated the documents. It also found he violated duties owed to his client and legal profession.
"In the end, it appears that although repairs were delayed, (the client's) house was repaired and that most and possibly all of the insurance proceeds were eventually paid by (Andrus) toward the repairs," according to the Supreme Court's filing. "However, it is unknown whether the same outcome would have occurred had (the client) not filed a complaint with the ODC."
Neither Andrus nor the disciplinary counsel objected to the disciplinary board's recommendation that Andrus be disbarred.
What did the Louisiana Supreme Court decide?
The Louisiana Supreme Court, which reviews whether misconduct was proven by clear and convincing evidence, found that Andrus engaged in "serious attorney misconduct." It agreed that Andrus should be disbarred.
"While we do not minimize the seriousness of his misconduct as it relates to his client...we suggest that respondent’s numerous instances of deceptive behavior are the most disturbing aspect of this matter," the court wrote.
"From the incredible tale of a vehicle burglary offered as justification for failing to timely respond to the disciplinary complaint, to his attempt to evade service of a subpoena by claiming to be his identical twin brother, and finally to submitting fabricated receipts and invoices to the ODC, respondent has violated the most fundamental duty of an officer of the court."
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Lafayette attorney Brad Andrus disbarred by Louisiana Supreme Court