Lawyer who wrote client refund check that bounced reprimanded

An attorney whose dissatisfied immigration client sued her in small claims court after the attorney’s check for unearned services bounced has been reprimanded by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Justices on Thursday approved a statement of circumstances and conditional agreement between Patricia L. Rios and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission ordering a public reprimand.

The order in In the Matter of: Patricia L. Rios, 19S-DI-511, says a client who hired Rios, an Indianapolis attorney, to handle an immigration matter paid her $1,420 — a $1,000 retainer and $420 for an anticipated filing fee.

“After Respondent had done a minimal amount of work and before anything was filed, Client terminated Respondent and asked for a refund of the filing fee and any unearned attorney fees. Respondent wrote Client a check for $920 (the $420 filing fee and $500 in unearned legal fees), but the check bounced. After Respondent would not write Client another check, Client sued Respondent in small claims court and obtained a default judgment in January 2017 for $920 plus $101 in court costs and post-judgment interest at the rate of 8% per annum.”

In May 2019, the order says, Rios provided the client a $1,000 cashier’s check in partial satisfaction of the amount she owes. The order further says Rios must pay the commission just over $284 for investigative expenses and costs and the expenses of hearing officer Robert York, to be submitted at a later date.

Admitted to practice in 2003, Rios has one prior disciplinary case, which was filed and dismissed in 2017.

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