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In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Sayaovong

Supreme Court of Minnesota

March 28, 2018

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Amoun Vang Sayaovong, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0388894.

          Original Jurisdiction Office of Appellate Courts

          Susan M. Humiston, Director, Cassie Hanson, Senior Assistant Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.

          Amoun Vang Sayaovong, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pro se.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Respondent misappropriated client funds when he received funds in a garnishment proceeding for the benefit of his clients, did not place the funds into a trust account, and never remitted the funds to his clients.

         2. Disbarment is the appropriate discipline for an attorney who misappropriated client funds, charged an unreasonable fee, failed to return unearned fees, abandoned client matters, neglected client matters, disregarded court obligations, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, and failed to cooperate with the disciplinary process.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition and supplementary petition for disciplinary action against respondent Amoun Vang Sayaovong, alleging six counts of misconduct that occurred in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Sayaovong did not file an answer to either petition. We accordingly deemed the allegations admitted and allowed the parties to file memoranda on the appropriate discipline. Sayaovong has not filed a memorandum or otherwise appeared in this matter. The Director asserts that the appropriate sanction is disbarment. We agree.

         FACTS

         Sayaovong was admitted to the practice of law in Minnesota in 2008. In 2015, the Director filed a petition for disciplinary action against Sayaovong, alleging three counts of misconduct regarding: (1) misconduct underlying a 2014 Wisconsin disciplinary proceeding involving the Y.Y and L.V. matters; (2) the C.D. matter in Minnesota; and (3) noncooperation with the Director's investigation of the 2014 Wisconsin disciplinary matters and the C.D. matter. After the Director was unable to personally serve Sayaovong, we granted the Director's application for an order for suspension under Rule 12(c)(1), Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR), and gave Sayaovong 1 year to file a motion to vacate the suspension and seek leave to answer the petition. In re Sayaovong, No. A15-1320, Order at 1 (Minn. filed Oct. 23, 2015). Sayaovong did not file such a motion or respond to the petition. He has not petitioned for reinstatement and has remained suspended since October 2015.

         In 2017, the Director filed a supplementary petition for disciplinary action against Sayaovong, alleging three additional counts of misconduct regarding: (1) misconduct underlying a 2015 Wisconsin disciplinary proceeding involving the P.S. and C.S. matter, as well as the D&D Auto Services, LLC matter; (2) the L.J. and M.J. matter in Minnesota; and (3) noncooperation with the Director's investigation of the 2015 Wisconsin disciplinary matters and the L.J. and M.J. matter. Sayaovong did not file an answer to the supplementary petition.

         Because Sayaovong failed to respond to either petition, we deemed the allegations in the petition and supplementary petition admitted. See In re Sayaovong, A15-1320, Order at 1-2 (Minn.); In re Sayaovong, A15-1320, Order at 1 (Minn. filed Nov. 15, 2016); see also Rules 12(c), 13(b), RLPR. The admitted facts are as follows.

         Sayaovong's misconduct that occurred in Wisconsin involves four client matters: Y.Y., L.V., P.S. and C.S., and D&D Auto Services, LLC.

         Y.Y. Matter

         Sayaovong represented Y.Y. in a social security administration appeal in 2009. In re Sayaovong, 850 N.W.2d 940, 942 (Wis. 2014). Y.Y. paid Sayaovong a $2, 000 retainer fee. Id. Sayaovong submitted the appeal, but then abandoned Y.Y.'s matter and took no further action. Id. Sayaovong never sent a copy of the appeal to Y.Y. Id.

         The client filed a grievance against Sayaovong with the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) in Wisconsin. Id. Other than providing a new address, Sayaovong failed to respond to any of the OLR's communications regarding the Y.Y. matter. Id. at 943. Sayaovong also did not respond to the Wisconsin Supreme Court's order to show cause, and was consequently suspended for 3 months until he satisfactorily responded to the OLR. Id.

         L.V. Matter[1]

         L.V. hired Sayaovong to represent him in his immigration removal proceedings in 2010. Id. at 944. Sayaovong received a $4, 000 retainer but never placed it into a trust account. Id. Two months later, L.V. terminated Sayaovong and requested an accounting of his fees and a refund of $2, 000. Id. Sayaovong told L.V. that the retainer was a nonrefundable flat fee, even though there was no written fee agreement, and Sayaovong never provided L.V. with an accounting. Id.

         L.V. also filed a grievance against Sayaovong with the OLR. Id. Sayaovong did not cooperate with the OLR's investigation of the L.V. matter until the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered him to show cause as to why his license should not be suspended. Id.

         The OLR filed a complaint in the Wisconsin Supreme Court regarding the Y.Y. and L.V. matters. Id. at 942. The court held that Sayaovong was in default, the allegations in the complaint were established, and Sayaovong had committed seven counts of misconduct. Id. at 946. Sayaovong was publicly reprimanded and ordered to make restitution of $2, 000 to Y.Y. and $2, 000 to L.V. Id. Sayaovong has not made restitution to either client.

         P.S. and C.S. Matter

         Sayaovong represented P.S. and C.S. in an accident case in 2009. In re Sayaovong, 871 N.W.2d 271, 272 (Wis. 2015). The clients received a favorable judgment of $6, 500, and the defendant's employer sent garnished funds to Sayaovong to be paid to P.S. and C.S. Id. Sayaovong did not notify the clients upon receipt of the funds but issued checks to them periodically. Id. at 272-73. On one occasion, Sayaovong received a garnishment check, did not deposit it into a trust account, and never sent a corresponding check to P.S. and C.S., despite the clients questioning him about the missing ...


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