A committee of the state Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended that the Louisiana Supreme Court permanently strip the law license of an attorney who made a name for himself defending New Orleans police officers against allegations of misconduct and lambasting aspects of a federal consent decree guiding NOPD reforms.
In a report issued Wednesday, the committee said Raymond Burkart III, 42, should be disbarred because he ignored charges that he kept unearned fees, refused to release files to a client who fired him and failed to keep in contact with three clients in recent years.
Burkart did not respond to a message seeking comment Thursday.
The recommendation is not a final ruling. The disciplinary board will have the chance to review the case, and the state Supreme Court has final say over whether Burkart's law license should be revoked or if a lesser penalty would be more appropriate.
Burkart, a former New Orleans policeman, was admitted to the state bar in 2006. He became a familiar public figure as the lead spokesman for the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, the largest police organization in the city.
In that role, Burkart represented numerous officers accused of misconduct in criminal and civil service cases. He also was a vocal critic of the federal consent decree that Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012.
Burkart frequently railed against the city's controversial takeover of the management of off-duty police detail work, among other NOPD reforms called for by the consent decree.
Burkart quietly left FOP about three years ago. He has been ineligible to practice law since September 2016 because of unpaid dues and failure to complete continuing legal education courses.
In the meantime, Burkart has faced other legal troubles. He is serving two years' probation after pleading guilty in St. Tammany Parish on Sept. 14 to a charge of telephone harassment. His attorney in that case was his father, veteran NOPD Maj. Raymond C. Burkart Jr.
The cases involved in the disciplinary proceedings against the younger Burkart date back to 2009, though the alleged misconduct began in early 2014, according to documents.
In one case, the committee found that Burkart refused to give a client back her file from a personal injury case after she fired him and requested the file three times, the documents show.
In another matter, Burkart accepted a retainer fee to represent a man in a 2009 civil lawsuit but then stopped communicating with him until the client asked for a status update in early 2014.
The documents say that Burkart responded that the case was ready for trial but would likely be settled — and then essentially ducked the client's attempts to stay in touch by telephone, text message and Facebook. The client ultimately demanded his money back. Burkart didn't comply, the documents say.
Finally, the documents allege, another woman paid Burkart $500 to represent her in a child-support case in December 2015, but he did nothing on the case and never contacted her again.
The hearing committee found that Burkart's reported actions violated several state rules governing attorney conduct, depriving his clients of money and of documents that "potentially resulted in loss of valid claims and defenses."
Burkart has never responded to the allegations, prompting the board to consider them "admitted and proven by clear and convincing evidence," the committee said.
Burkart's "utter lack of response to these complaints and formal charges is greatly disturbing," the committee found, "whether it results from an unexplained inability to respond, a lack of interest in remaining a lawyer, or disrespect for this proceeding."
Burkart also experienced legal problems during his career at the NOPD.
He placed fifth out of 218 officers on a promotion test and seemed in line to become a sergeant when a January 2002 arrest on allegations of drunken driving and hit-and-run halted his rise in a department he had joined five years earlier.
As an FOP attorney, Burkart scored some legal victories for officers. They included a successful appeal of a 30-day suspension without pay that an NOPD sergeant received following an accusation that he battered a female student in 2008 at a public high school.
In that case, the state Supreme Court left in place a ruling that Burkart won from a lower court blasting the way the NOPD handled its internal investigations. The judge in that case found that the department violated officers' rights by delaying internal investigations until after related criminal ones were completed, which at times exceeded time limits outlined in a state law designed to protect cops.
The Supreme Court later reversed that stance in cases involving other officers.