Published; 3 Feb., 2020
The SuperBowl list from February 2020 State Bar Journal’s lawyer misconduct pages shows a familiar storyline.
We’ve got another lawyer deciding to steal $90,000 of an elderly persons house proceeds which this lawyer (Fronenberger) sold and kept it all for his greedy self. He was slapped, not indicted.
Hon. Mary Brown
Then we’ve a decade long case about a lawyer who stole client funds for personal use, which was investigated by the San Antonio police and he was charged and involved theft of tens of thousands of dollars. Yet, roll on to 2020 and this lawyer is also still a licensed lawyer.
UPDATE: The lawyer in question, Joe Ponce III has been disbarred weeks later, by the Commission for Lawyer Discipline. The order was signed by the Hon. Mary C. Brown on 18 February, 2020. Well, there you go, justice eventually handed down. You can read the order of disbarment HERE.
There’s also several lawyers here who are also guilty of stealing and dipping into client funds like it’s a personal bank account and once again, nothing is done about it, apart from these meaningless slaps.
We’ve a judge, who’s dad was also a judge, knowingly supporting his brother’s campaign to get on a School Board of Trustees. Oh, that’s right, he wouldn’t know the rules…
Then we have the Secret Nine. The Private Reprimand of Select Attorneys continues into 2020 and the Texas Bar Journal lists all the violations for these nine nameless Texas lawyers. This is inconsistent with a Profession which claims to strive to serve Texans and ensure that they receive information on their website about potentially hazardous legal appointments, namely bad lawyers or those that have a tendency to put themselves before the public. Silent punishment is far from transparent and this legal disciplinary system needs to be changed.
Disciplinary Actions — February 2020 State Bar lists ( from the State Bar of Texas)
General questions regarding attorney discipline should be directed to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office, toll-free (877) 953-5535 or (512) 453-5535. The Board of Disciplinary Appeals may be reached at (512) 475-1578. Information and copies of actual orders are available at www.txboda.org. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct may be contacted toll-free, (877) 228-5750 or (512) 463-5533. Please note that persons disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Conduct are not necessarily licensed attorneys.
An evidentiary panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that Guidry failed to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their case and failed to promptly comply with their reasonable requests for information.
Guidry further failed to hold funds belonging in whole or in part to his clients in a separate trust account, failed to promptly notify his clients of his receipt of the settlement funds, and failed to promptly deliver funds to his clients.
During the representation, Guidry engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
Furthermore, Guidry failed to file a response to the grievance. Guidry violated Rules 1.03(a), 1.14(a), 1.14(b), 8.04(a)(3), and 8.04(a)(8). He agreed to pay $500 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.
On October 18, 2019, Andrew Christopher Smith [#24063859], 42, of Houston, received a three-year partially probated suspension effective October 9, 2019, with the first 84 days actively suspended and the remainder probated.
An evidentiary panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that Smith neglected the legal matter entrusted to him, failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of the matter, failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from his client, failed to explain the matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit his client to make informed decisions regarding the representation, and Smith’s physical, mental, or psychological condition materially impaired his fitness to represent his client.
Smith also failed to timely furnish to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel a response or other information as required by the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure. Smith violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.03(b), 1.15(a)(2), and 8.04(a)(8).
Rest of Texas
JUDICIAL ACTIONS To read the entire public sanction, go to scjc.texas.gov
On December 5, 2019, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public warning to David Saucedo, county judge, Eagle Pass, Maverick County. (Keepin’ it in the Family; He endorsed his brother Nacho on Facebook).
“Nacho” Saucedo, candidate to the Eagle Pass ISD Board of Trustees, Place 3 has authorized the Eagle Pass News Leader to announce his candidacy.
Mr. Saucedo is the son of the late former County Judge Ramon Saucedo, Jr. and retired long-time educator Veronica Roman Saucedo. He has one sister, Leticia, and three brothers, Ricardo, Patricio, and David.
Nacho is a 1996 graduate of Eagle Pass High School and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he majored in Latin American Studies. While at UNLV, he was selected as a member of the University Studies Abroad Consortium, where he continued his studies at the Universidad Ibero Americana in Puebla, Mexico.
Nacho is currently employed by the Maverick County Sheriff’s Office as a grant administrator. He previously served on the Eagle Pass ISD Board of Trustees as President, Secretary, and Trustee from 2010-2016 and is a former member of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. Prior to serving on the board, he was elected Maverick County Democratic Party Chair. And while he has since remained a strong Democratic activist and advocate, his commitment to education remains at the forefront.
On November 14, 2019, the Board of Disciplinary Appeals signed an agreed judgment of fully probated suspension against Springfield, Oregon, attorney Abigail Dennyse Molina [#24074740], 43.
On July 29, 2019, an order approving stipulation for discipline was entered in the Oregon Supreme Court, in a matter styled In re the Conduct of: Abigail Molina, Bar No. 176383, Respondent, Cause No. 18-156, placing Molina on probation for one year for violations of the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct Rules 1.15-1(a) (failing to hold funds belonging to a client separate from her own and failing to account for those funds) and 1.15-1(c) (converting client funds).
Molina is suspended from the practice of law for six months fully probated, beginning December 1, 2019. BODA Cause No. 63667.
On December 12, 2019, the Board of Disciplinary Appeals signed an agreed judgment of suspension against North Salt Lake, Utah, attorney Benjamin Richard Horton [#24053273], 43.
On or about September 15, 2016, an order of discipline: suspension was filed in the Third Judicial District Court in and for Salt Lake County, Utah, in a matter styled In the Matter of the Discipline of: Benjamin R. Horton, #11452, Respondent, Civil No. 140905954, suspending Horton from the practice of law for three years beginning October 15, 2016, for violations of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct Rules 1.3 (diligence), 1.4(a) (communication), 1.5(a) (fees), 1.8(h)(1) (conflict of interest), 5.3(a) (responsibilities regarding nonlawyer assistants), 5.4 (professional independence of a lawyer), 7.1 (communication concerning a lawyer’s services), 8.1(b) (bar admission and disciplinary matters), and 8.4(c) (fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).
Horton is suspended from the practice of law for three years, beginning January 1, 2020. BODA Cause No. 59814.
On December 18, 2019, the Board of Disciplinary Appeals revoked the probation of San Antonio attorney Joe Jesse Ponce III [#24014329], 61.
The board found that Ponce materially violated the terms and conditions of the judgment of partially probated suspension signed by the District 10 Grievance Committee on May 18, 2019, that suspended him from the practice of law for 36 months.
The first four months was an active suspension and for the remaining 32 months, the suspension was probated.
The board revoked his probation and suspended him from the practice of law for 32 months, beginning December 18, 2019, and ending August 18, 2022.
Attorney indicted for theft from clients
Originally Published; July 25th, 2014
SAN ANTONIO — A San Antonio attorney was indicted on two felony charges Friday related to his alleged inappropriate taking of money from clients.
Joe Jesse Ponce III, 56, faces a third-degree felony charge of theft between $20,000 and $100,000, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as a state jail felony charge of misapplication of fiduciary duties, punishable by up to two years incarceration.
The charges are the result of a San Antonio Police Department investigation that began in February.
According to a release from the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, the first charge stems from Ponce’s representation of a woman in a 2010 divorce case in which he allegedly took “money from the victim without her consent.”
The second charge resulted from an allegation that in 2012 Ponce requested that the family of a client he represented in a theft case send him money that he would use to pay off restitution owed and “facilitate the release of their family member from jail.”
According to the release, the family told authorities that instead Ponce “kept the money for his own personal use and did not pay anything toward the restitution owed on the case.”
Prosecutor Trey Banack, chief of the white collar crimes division, said his office “will attempt to take away his license to practice law.”
In 2009, attorney Wayne Crocker was convicted of taking his clients’ money and was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2011, attorney Sean O’Neill was convicted of similar charges and sentenced to five years prison. Both men were required to surrender their law licenses.
A message left at Ponce’s law office Friday afternoon was not immediately returned. Banack said it’s expected that Ponce will be turn himself in next week.
LIT COMMENT REGARDING JOE PONCE III
Apparently, this indictment didn’t go anywhere as 10 years after the alleged theft, Joe Ponce is still an attorney with the Texas Bar and protected from any meaningful prosecution.
He’s been slapped 3 times as shown, twice with FULLY probated suspensions.
The question is, why, when looking at the indictment, it involved theft of more than just one clients funds and which he was criminally indicted for.
At the time of Keene’s resignation, there was one pending matter against him alleging Keene did knowingly offer to another person, for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with that person, an offer of a benefit being in the form of rendition of professional services, such conduct being a violation of Texas Penal Code § 43.02 – Prostitution.
On April 4, 2019, Keene was criminally charged for the above-described conduct. Keene allegedly violated Rule 8.04(a)(2).
On November 18, 2019, Tametha D’Lyn Barker [#24044113], 43, of Amarillo, received a three-year active suspension effective November 18, 2019, through November 17, 2022.
An evidentiary panel of the District 13 Grievance Committee found that Barker neglected a legal matter entrusted to her and failed to keep her client reasonably informed about the status of the client’s legal matter and failed to promptly comply with her client’s reasonable requests for information about the case.
Barker failed to respond to the grievance. Barker violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), and 8.04(a)(8). She was ordered to pay $560 in attorneys’ fees and $456.33 in direct expenses.
A graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law, I grew up in Central Texas, but have strong family ties in the Texas Panhandle.
The granddaughter of cotton farmers in Providence, a small community northeast of Plainview, I learned to spot cotton blooms from the back of my grandfather’s pickup at an early age.
After graduating from law school, I worked in the District Attorney’s Office in Colorado and New Mexico before returning to Amarillo in 2010. In Amarillo, I worked as an Assistant Attorney General for four years, handling many complex child support issues, before opening my own practice. I look forward to helping you navigate the complexities of the legal system.
I am the proud aunt of 9 nieces and nephews, and, whenever I get the chance, I spend time watching gymnastics, ballet, rodeo, football, and a variety of other activities where my favorite youngsters shine. I enjoy singing in my church’s choir and praise team, reading, movies, and spoiling my dog.
On November 27, 2019, Ward Brackett Bennett Davison [#24066787], 39, of Dallas, received a 12-month partially probated suspension effective December 1, 2019, with the first month active and the remainder probated.
An investigatory panel of the District 6 Grievance Committee found that Davison neglected legal matters entrusted to him by clients and frequently failed to carry out completely the obligations he owed to his clients.
Davison failed to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their legal matters and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from his clients about their cases.
In representing a client in one matter, Davison failed to explain the legal matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit his client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
Davison engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation.
Davison violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.01(b)(2), 1.03(a), 1.03(b), and 8.04(a)(3).
He was ordered to pay $3,500 in restitution and $500 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.
On November 27, 2019, Kelly Dawson [#24068025], 42, of Austin, accepted a three-month fully probated suspension effective December 1, 2019.
An investigatory panel of the District 9 Grievance Committee found that the complainant hired Dawson on August 26, 2016, to facilitate a mediation with her estranged son.
If mediation was not successful, Dawson agreed to file a wrongful death suit, on the complainant’s behalf, against the complainant’s son related to the death of the complainant’s daughter.
After the complainant sent a demand letter to her son’s attorney, without Dawson’s knowledge, the complainant’s son filed a defamation suit against the complainant in Nevada.
With the complainant’s consent, Dawson agreed to accept service on the complainant’s behalf. On October 6, 2016, Dawson accepted service of the suit.
The complainant’s answer to the defamation suit was due October 27, 2016. On October 21, 2016, Dawson sent the complainant a draft of an answer that included a special appearance and counter-claims.
One week later, the complainant sent an email with corrections that needed to be made to the answer prior to filing. However, Dawson never filed the answer. On December 2, 2016, opposing counsel filed a motion for default judgment and notice of hearing and provided notice to Dawson. Dawson failed to file any responsive pleading.
A default judgment was entered against the complainant on January 12, 2017.
Dawson was sent a notice of entry of judgment by default on February 8, 2017. Thereafter, in communications with the complainant, Dawson misrepresented the status of the defamation case by not advising the complainant about the motion for default judgment hearing or the judgment.
Dawson violated Rules 1.01(a), 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(b), and 8.04(a)(3).
Dawson was ordered to pay $926.50 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.
Screenshot taken from Dawson’s website bio page; 3rd February, 2020
On November 13, 2019, Joel Douglas Froneberger [#00785887], 57, of Waco, received a 24-month fully probated suspension effective December 1, 2019.
The District 6 Grievance Committee found that in May 2012, the client entered into an agreement with Froneberger and another attorney to handle all of her legal matters within a one-year period for a flat fee and the client’s grandmother signed over a warranty deed as collateral for the fee.
The grandmother and the client did not pay the agreed flat fee and Froneberger and the other attorney subsequently sold the property.
Froneberger and the other attorney did not remit the unearned portion of the sales proceeds to the grandmother at the conclusion of the representation.
Froneberger violated Rule 1.15(d).
He was ordered to pay $89,187 in restitution and $4,262.50 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.
JD Fronenberger, is listed as Joel Douglas Fronenberger on the State Bar of Texas profile but he uses J. Doug[las] Fronenberger as his preferred name. A lack of transparency as normally on bar profiles, the alternative is listed in the name.
This lawyers’ name sounded familiar and LIT can confirm, we did write an article previously about a judge who demanded this Waco attorney attend court despite his wife admitted to hospital with a terminal cancer.
However, there appears to be another side to Attorney Fronenberger – who sold an elderly clients deeded house that was offered for security for a relative and not only did he sell the home, he never gave back the surplus funds from the $222,000 sale value, which was a material amount of just under $90,000.
On December 20, 2019, Dennis R. Martin [#13059400], 70, of San Antonio, accepted a 30-day active suspension effective January 1, 2020.
An investigatory panel of the District 10 Grievance Committee found that Martin failed to refund unearned fees, failed to comply with the terms of a prior disciplinary judgment, and failed to respond to a grievance in a timely manner.
Martin violated Rules 1.15(d), 8.04(a)(7), and 8.04(a)(8). He agreed to pay $600 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.
On December 13, 2019, Roberto Lazaro Sanchez [#24053061], 41, of El Paso, agreed to a one-year fully probated suspension effective October 15, 2020.
An investigatory panel of the District 17 Grievance Committee found that Sanchez failed to supervise the conduct of his non-lawyer employee and assisted another in violating the disciplinary rules.
Sanchez violated Rules 5.03(a) and 8.04(a)(1). He was ordered to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.
On December 6, 2019, Michael A. Warner [#20872700], 57, of Amarillo, agreed to a six-month fully probated suspension effective November 15, 2019.
The District 13 Grievance Committee found that in October 2015, the complainant hired Warner for representation in a breach of contract case.
In connection with the complainant’s legal matter, Warner knowingly made a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal. Warner engaged in conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation.
Warner violated Rules 3.03(a)(1) and 8.04(a)(3). He was ordered to pay $1,350 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.
Texas Lawyer Jami Nance was in a Jam after dipping into the Clients Funds and writing her client a “Hot Check” for $78k.
An investigatory panel out of District 14 found that Seymour neglected a legal matter entrusted to him, failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of her legal matter, and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
Upon termination of representation, Seymour failed to refund advance payments of the fee that had not been earned.
Seymour failed to respond to the grievance.Seymour violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.15(d), and 8.04(a)(8).
He was ordered to pay $2,640 in restitution and $500 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.
On December 12, 2019, Jessica Spangler Taylor [#24013546], 48, of San Antonio, accepted a public reprimand.
An investigatory panel of the District 10 Grievance Committee found that Taylor failed to hold client’s funds separate from her own property and failed to deliver funds to parties entitled to receive the funds promptly.
Taylor violated Rules 1.14(a) and 1.14(b). She was ordered to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.