Erie lawyer will get public reprimand over dealing with of $6,000 price in legal case

Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court docket discovered that fee-related criticism in opposition to Erie lawyer Anthony Rodriques warranted public reprimand

Rodriques, who finally refunded the shopper, balked at accepting self-discipline as he disputed findings in reprimand

He lastly agreed to simply accept reprimand after getting warned that he may facer stiffer penalty in any other case

An Erie lawyer’s dealing with of a case has earned him a rebuke from his friends.

Anthony Rodriques, a lawyer for 13 years, has obtained a public reprimand from the state board that regulates legal professionals. He’s allowed to proceed to follow regulation.

The general public reprimand, administered at a listening to livestreamed on Thursday, culminated an investigation through which the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court docket discovered that Rodriques, 62, violated the state’s guidelines for skilled conduct for legal professionals.

A 3-member panel of the board mentioned Rodriques erred by failing to initially return $6,000 and paperwork to a defendant who had paid him to characterize her in a legal case in Allegheny County in 2021. He was additionally to think about representing her in a civil rights case in Allegheny County. His flat price within the legal case was $6,000, the panel mentioned.

The panel additionally faulted Rodriques for not offering a price settlement to the shopper at first of the illustration, in line with info introduced on the listening to. And the panel mentioned that his price — which the panel mentioned amounted to $300 an hour, primarily based on the variety of hours Rodriques mentioned he spent on the case — violated skilled requirements that prohibit a lawyer from charging a “clearly extreme price.”

The shopper, Pittsburgh resident Lynne L. Thompson, requested Rodriques to characterize her in October 2021, the panel mentioned. In November 2021, she informed him to not take her case as a result of he had but to offer her a price settlement, and she or he informed him to refund the $6,000 instantly, in line with the reprimand.

“After satisfying your requirement for cost of the $6,000 in full, your shopper made a number of requests for a written price settlement, however you did not ship her one,” in line with the reprimand. “You expressed frustration together with your shopper’s requests for the price settlement and knowledgeable her that you just have been going to cost her for each phone name to you.”

Data additionally present she was sad along with his illustration, which the panel mentioned lasted two weeks, and Rodriques “didn’t characterize her on any facet of her legal case,” in line with the reprimand. Thompson mentioned she needed to wait a 12 months to get again her $6,000.

The disciplinary panel mentioned Rodriques’ conduct warranted a public reprimand. The panel additionally warned him in opposition to future misbehavior in mild of him receiving a personal admonition in October 2021 “to handle your misconduct regarding lack of diligence and lack of communication in a shopper matter,” the lead panelist, Celeste Dee, a lawyer from Bethlehem, informed Rodriques.

“It’s the board’s obligation to reprimand you for this misconduct,” Dee mentioned of the present case as she learn from the reprimand. “Please bear in mind that any subsequent violations in your half can solely end in additional self-discipline and extra extreme sanctions. As a consequence of your historical past of self-discipline, we actually hope that you’ll conduct your self in a such a way that future disciplinary motion shall be pointless.”

A public reprimand by the Disciplinary Board is the least extreme of the sorts of public self-discipline {that a} lawyer can face in Pennsylvania. Probably the most extreme is disbarment, adopted by suspension, public censure by the state Supreme Court docket, probation and public reprimand. Legal professionals may also face personal reprimand or casual admonition, which can be personal.

Rodriques disputes findings contained in public reprimand

Rodriques nearly ended Thursday’s listening to with out accepting the reprimand.

He twice informed the panel he disagreed with its findings and mentioned he didn’t wish to undergo with the listening to.

The panelists warned him that his refusal to simply accept the general public reprimand would expose him to a extra important penalty.

“It seems at this level that you have no regret for what you will have finished,” mentioned panelist Robert Mongeluzzi, a lawyer from Philadelphia. “That may be a key issue.”

“I’ve regret,” Rodriques mentioned, “however that doesn’t imply I ought to admit issues which are a not true.”

In explaining his hesitation, Rodriques mentioned, “I see prosecutors do that on a regular basis. If the man would not agree, then he’ll face stronger penalties so he agrees.”

He then went via the remainder of the listening to.

He mentioned afterward that he felt that the panel “bullied” him. He mentioned he returned the cash as Thompson, his former shopper, had requested.

“I really feel that the allegations that have been filed have been untruths or half-truths,” Rodriques mentioned in an interview. “The specter of one thing worse taking place is why I agreed to it.”

Thompson mentioned she was happy that Rodriques obtained the reprimand. She was not current on the listening to.

“That is good,” Thompson, in an interview, mentioned of the reprimand. She mentioned he had employed Rodriques as the results of a referral.

“He precipitated me aggravation by not doing what he was presupposed to do,” Thompson mentioned. Getting again her cash, she mentioned, “was a struggle.”

Consumer additionally sued Rodriques to get a refund

Thompson filed a criticism in opposition to Rodriques with the Disciplinary Board on Nov. 18, 2021, and sued him earlier than an Erie Justice of the Peace to get the cash again, in line with the information.

“This lawyer by no means represented me wherever,” Thompson mentioned within the criticism type she filed with the Disciplinary Board.

The shape is hooked up to a civil criticism Thompson filed in opposition to Rodriques in a go well with docketed on the workplace of Erie 1st Ward District Choose Sue Mack in December 2021. After Rodriques didn’t seem at a listening to in that case in April 2022, Mack dominated in favor of Thompson and entered a judgment that required Rodriques to pay Thompson $6,206.35 — $6,000 she had given Rodriques to characterize her and $206.35 to cowl what Thompson needed to spend to sue him.

Rodriques appealed to Erie County Widespread Pleas Court docket, the place the case is pending. It will seem like moot as a result of Rodriques refunded Thompson in November, she mentioned. The Disciplinary Board additionally required him to repay Thompson and return the paperwork as a part of the reprimand. She mentioned she obtained the paperwork again someday earlier than she obtained the refund.

Rodriques filed go well with in federal courtroom in unrelated case

Rodriques handles all kinds of legal instances, together with homicides, and different instances. He gained consideration lately when he sued in federal courtroom in Erie over claims of racial bias within the Erie County justice system.

Rodriques, who’s Black, sued the county and two Erie magistrates in 2022, claiming he was improperly denied entry to courtroom information in a murder case. Rodriques claimed District Judges Tom Carney, of the third Ward, and Ed Wilson, of the 2nd Ward, handled him unfairly, and that Carney’s actions have been “primarily based on race.” Carney and Wilson are white.

Lawsuit filed:’Thwarted’ Erie lawyer sues 2 district judges over public information, claims racial bias

Rodriques finally obtained the information, however continued to pursue the lawsuit. U.S. District Choose Susan Paradise Baxter dismissed the case months in the past.

Baxter in November dominated that judicial immunity shielded Carney and Wilson from being sued. She then threw out Rodriques’ claims in opposition to the county after discovering he did not file an amended lawsuit in opposition to the county. Baxter had allowed Rodriques to file the amended criticism after she tossed the claims in opposition to Carney and Wilson.

Baxter issued her closing order within the case Jan. 13, saying she dismissed Rodriques’ claims in opposition to the county “on account of Plaintiff’s failure to prosecute.”

Rodriques mentioned on the time the dismissal had left him undeterred from going to courtroom once more.

“I might do it once more,” he mentioned. “If I really feel that I’m in any approach being handled unfairly, I’ll sue whoever I really feel is accountable.”

Case dismissed:Choose cites immunity, tosses ‘thwarted’ Erie lawyer’s lawsuit that claimed racial bias

‘What would you love to do?’ panelist says at disciplinary listening to

On the listening to Thursday, Rodriques mentioned he was being handled unfairly on account of what he mentioned have been the false claims within the reprimand. He contemplated whether or not he needed to finish the listening to and face the opportunity of a stiffer penalty.

“What would you love to do?” mentioned Dee, one of many panelists. “Would you wish to ship this again to defend what you’re feeling is inaccurate, or would you wish to proceed with the reprimand?”

“And if I proceed with the reprimand, I’m agreeing to all of the details that you just acknowledged?'” Rodriques mentioned.

“Right,” Dee mentioned.

“I am unable to conform to that,” Rodriques mentioned. “As a result of all of the details that you just acknowledged weren’t right,”

Dee cautioned Rodriques that ending the listening to would expose him to the opportunity of extra extreme self-discipline. She mentioned he may have disputed the Disciplinary Board’s findings earlier than the case obtained the stage of a reprimand.

Rodriques fell silent for about 30 seconds as he determined what to do.

“Do you wish to proceed, or would you like me to ship it again?” Dee mentioned.

“I would like you to proceed,” Rodriques mentioned.

“Smart alternative,” mentioned Mongeluzzi, one of many different panelists.

Contact Ed Palattella at epalattella@timesnews.com. Observe him on Twitter @ETNpalattella.

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