A local defense lawyer who was the attorney for Tombstone has been suspended for a year after members of a disciplinary panel of the State Bar of Arizona said he acted unethically when he lied to a court, overcharged some of his clients and had a conflict of interest that adversely affected clients.
The suspension against Paul Randall Bays, 61, comes after he was placed on disability inactive status in August by William J. O’Neil, the presiding disciplinary judge of the State Bar of Arizona. In his order, O’Neil wrote that his decision was effective immediately, “as he (Bays) is incapacitated or impaired and unable to discharge his duties to clients, the bar, the courts, or the public.”
In the latest action against Bays, a panel of three — including O’Neil — ruled on two disciplinary cases that involved several clients Bays represented in divorce, paternity and child custody cases.
According to documents released by the State Bar of Arizona, the first disciplinary case involved Bays’ actions with three clients. There were three counts against Bays in the first case.
In count one, Bays was paid $3,900 to represent a father in a family law matter. The opposing mother was the daughter of a former client of Bays. Bays suggested, without explanation, that the daughter’s father should surrender his parental rights, according to court documents.
In count two, Bays was paid $2,500 to represent a client seeking severance of parental rights he shared with the biological mother. That client and his new wife then adopted the child. Bays obtained confidential information about those clients through his representation. Bays then represented the husband’s wife in a dissolution action against the ex-husband without obtaining waivers of any potential conflicts from them, according to the court.
In count three, Bays was paid $3,500 to represent a father in a child custody matter. The court accepted the parties’ parenting plan. Thereafter, the opposing party filed a motion to dismiss and made other requests. Bays did not file a response for his client, and the case was dismissed as a result. Bays moved for reconsideration and to withdraw, then charged his client for the motion to withdraw and the motion for reconsideration.
For count one, the panel ruled that Bays failed to abide by the client’s decisions and request, he failed to act diligently during the representation and he failed to reasonably communicate with the client during the representation.
For count two, the panel stated that Bays charged and collected an unreasonable fee for the representation. He represented a client in a matter and then represented another person in the same or substantially related matter in which that person’s interests were materially adverse to the interests of the former client. He did so without received written consent from the former client.
For count three, the panel ruled that Bays failed to expedite the litigation and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
“The exhibits support the allegations of unethical conduct,” the panel wrote in its decision on the first case.
The panel also said, “Respondent violated his duty to his clients; respondent violated his duty to the legal system; and Mr. Bays knowingly violated his duties to the profession, his client and the legal system causing actual injury.”
The second matter the disciplinary panel ruled on is related to Bays’ criminal conviction in a domestic violence case and his representation of a 20-year-old woman involved in a paternity case while he was addressing his own issues, the documents show.
On Feb. 14, 2020, Bays pleaded guilty pursuant to a signed agreement to aggravated assault and unlawful imprisonment. The disciplinary panel ruled that Bays’ actions in that domestic violence situation — which occurred in March 2019 — were unprofessional conduct that reflected adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.
In the second part of that disciplinary case in which Bays represented a woman in a paternity case, the three-member panel said Bays lied to a court when he failed to show up for a hearing for his client. Bays said he was scheduled to attend a hearing in Pima County for a divorce case, when in fact he was going to a hearing for his own criminal case. The divorce case, according to the disciplinary panel’s findings, had been closed the year prior.
Bays’ client was never notified and showed up in her paternity case in Cochise County, unrepresented by an attorney in court, documents show. On top of lying to the court about what he was doing in Pima County, the disciplinary panel said Bays charged the woman unreasonable fees, engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.