A Baton Rouge lawyer has been permanently disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme Court for myriad instances of professional misconduct, including being held in contempt of court for failing to appear for scheduled hearings.
J. Renee Martin also was ordered by the high court to pay nearly $27,000 in restitution to 10 clients.
Martin, who was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 2005 but had been under suspension since early 2017, is now "permanently prohibited from being readmitted to the practice of law in this state," the Supreme Court wrote in an order dated last week.
Martin, 39, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
A hearing committee had recommended to the high court that Martin be permanently disbarred because her offenses were so egregious.
"We agree," the justices said. "(Martin) has failed to account for or refund approximately $27,000 in client funds. In one instance, she settled a personal injury claim without her client's consent. She then failed to remit the funds owed to the client from the settlement and took an unauthorized fee from the settlement for work she was not contracted to do."
The Supreme Court also pointed out that Martin continued to practice law after the court placed her on interim suspension in February 2017.
The Supreme Court noted that she failed to answer the formal charges filed against her last summer by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. She also submitted nothing for the hearing committee's consideration, the court added.
One of the formal charges stated that Martin failed to appear twice in February 2016 on behalf of a client in the 19th Judicial District Court, prompting a judge to issue a bench warrant for her. She then gave "unsatisfactory answers" about the missed court dates at a March 2016 contempt hearing, the Supreme Court said.
The judge fined Martin $100 to recall the warrant, found her in contempt of court for failing to appear, fined her $500 for that failure and sentenced her to 30 days in jail, which was suspended upon payment of the $500 fine.
Then in September 2016, 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards III filed a complaint with the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel regarding Martin's "repeated failures" to appear on behalf of a criminal client.
Her areas of law practice included family law, divorce, estate and power of attorney. She also handled personal injury cases.