Harris v. Buhl
A lawyer who allegedly does not promptly return his client's files when the legal representation ends violates Rule 1.16(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In 2003, Lloyd Douglas Harris hired Attorney Paul Buhl of Haddam to represent limited liability companies. Allegedly, the respondent attorney did not return files promptly when the legal representation ended in 2009. Lloyd Douglas Harris filed a grievance complaint and indicated to Disciplinary Counsel that he did not want to punish Buhl, he merely wanted his files returned. Allegedly, the respondent attorney did not file an answer. In or about 2012, Buhl allegedly returned two of the files and apparently indicated that he could not locate any other files. Rule 1.16(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct provides, "Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee that has not been earned." The Statewide Grievance Committee found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the respondent attorney failed to return files to his client when the legal representation ended, in violation of Rules 1.15(e) and 1.16(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The respondent attorney did not file an answer to the grievance complaint, in violation of Rule 8.1(2). The Statewide Grievance Committee observed that the respondent attorney might have avoided sanctions, if he had responded to the grievance complaint. The Statewide Grievance Committee ordered the respondent's presentation to Superior Court for discipline.