Personal Injury Attorney In Tucson Disbarred For Mismanaging Trust Account

RHONDA BODFIELD Citizen Staff Writer

Local attorney William J. Redondo has consented to disbarment, saying he has no defense for three complaints registered with the State Bar charging him with inappropriately taking clients’ money and providing inadequate counsel.

The disbarment is just the latest in a litany of trouble for Redondo, who was admitted to the Bar to practice law in 1975.

Redondo, 59, was suspended from November 1992 until November 1994 after nine complaints of misconduct were filed between 1983 and 1989.

In one, Redondo was accused of using his client’s trust account as loans to his personal and business accounts. In another, Redondo paid one client only $500 of a $5,000 award in a personal injury suit and didn’t pay the balance until four years later.

The State Bar in 1995 moved to disbar him after four other cases of alleged misconduct surfaced between 1991 and 1993.

One of the cases involved a physician’s lien in a personal injury case, which allows treatment costs to be paid after court awards. The physician was not notified when the case was resolved and found out only after calling to check on the status years later.

The Supreme Court, however, rejected the Bar’s recommendation and instead ordered a one-year suspension to run concurrently with the previous one, saying the complaints occurred at about the same time.

This time, Redondo has agreed to the disbarment, saying he read the complaint ”and the charges therein made against me are true in substance and fact. I further acknowledge that I cannot successfully defend the charges made against me.”

Five years must pass before a disbarred attorney may apply for reinstatement. Redondo’s disbarment, however, is retroactive to November 1992 – the time of his earlier suspension. That means he will be eligible to reapply for his license in November.

Redondo agreed to pay $82,000 in restitution to the client security fund, which reimbursed the three victims who made the more recent charges. He was ordered to pay more than $21,000 in restitution in the earlier cases.

In the latest cases, according to the Bar complaint:

• One client sought his representation in a personal injury case after a 1985 automobile accident. Redondo never provided her with the final settlement figure or told her how much was deducted in attorney’s fees. Instead, he suggested he would invest the proceeds for her and she would receive $780 in interest quarterly.

When she sought an accounting of the principle invested, Redondo quit sending the quarterly payments and allegedly told her he was trying to borrow the money and wasn’t ”trying to beat her out of a lousy $27,000.”

He failed to answer three Bar inquiries into the charges.

• He persuaded the wife and son of a deceased state worker to let him invest $75,000 they received from the Arizona State Retirement System. He had provided the son with $200 monthly checks and the wife with $400 monthly checks starting in 1985 but the money stopped coming in 1992.

It was then the clients discovered he had taken one-third of the principal for his fees, even though no fee agreement or time accounting was provided. He also failed to respond to two Bar inquiries in that case.

• A woman provided Redondo with $5,000 to represent her incarcerated husband after his escape from prison and subsequent rearrest. Although Redondo appeared at the sentencing, he did not call witnesses or present evidence to the court.

After the original sentence was imposed, the wife requested he file an appeal and called every day until the appeal period expired but never got a call back. The appeal was never filed.

After the client demanded a refund in 1993, he refused. He never told her he had been suspended from practicing law. He failed to respond to two written inquiries from the Bar.

The file indicates Redondo was informally reprimanded by the Bar four times since 1988 in addition to the suspensions.

Yigael Cohen, senior counsel for the Bar, called the agreement fair, saying the retroactivity in the case was applied because all the conduct dates back to the same time period.

Cohen declined to say whether he would be concerned if Redondo were to appeal to get his law license back, but said Redondo would have to prove he had been rehabilitated and pay the restitution before he could retrieve his license.

The agreement must still be approved by the Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court, composed of nine attorneys and two lay persons. It will then go to the Supreme Court.

Tom Higgins, Redondo’s attorney, said the complaints ”were ancient history” and that his client agreed to the disbarment because he had ”horrendous” record keeping and knew he would not be able to present an adequate defense.

Higgins said, given the earlier disciplinary actions, the disbarment may have been effective now, as opposed to 1992, if Redondo had challenged the complaints.

He said Redondo did invest the money with a third person, but when the investment failed, the clients wanted the principal back from Redondo, who was simply a go-between and did not have the money.

Higgins said his client suffered extreme migraine headaches and was on severe medication in the late 1980s, but said that is no longer the case.

He said if Redondo were to reapply, he likely would keep better records.

But that didn’t satisfy one of the victims in the second case who was contacted last night. He said Redondo never said where his money was invested – sometimes it was with a woman with an oil field in Wyoming, other times it was with a man in Texas. When the interest checks started bouncing, that’s when the family got scared.

”It’s just been an awful experience, and to know he can just reapply for his license is very disturbing. He ought to be in prison for what he’s done but he got away with it,” the man said.

He said he’s been to the County Attorney’s Office but was told it didn’t have enough evidence for a criminal case. And because his mother’s nursing home bill has sapped all of the money, the victim can’t afford a civil case.

”After the O.J. thing, and what I went through, I have no respect for lawyers,” he said.

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