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A woman is pursuing civil action in 4th District Court to recover $504,717.33 that was held by the attorney her family hired to manage an estate of her late brother, Monroe native Clyde Carzet Tidwell.
After Tidwell's death in 2007, Lauretta Tidwell Robinson and her siblings, also Monroe natives, hired Monroe attorney Clyde Lain II to file documents to follow Tidwell's wishes to have her appointed as administratrix of his estate following his death.
"Lain was hired by family of the decedent to represent the succession and secure the succession funds and distribute the funds to the heirs," Robinson's attorney Brian Crawford said. "After the information came to light that there was quite a bit larger succession than what the heirs had thought, Mr. Lain gathered those funds … and then placed those funds in his client's trust account for ultimate distribution to the heirs. That's when the heirs lost contact with Mr. Lain.
"After a couple years of inability to communicate, (Robinson) ... contacted the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The office started its investigation and … realized Mr. Lain had deposited the money to the trust account but had converted it to his own use instead of distributing it to the heirs. I think the simple statement there is that he stole the money."
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is a subsidiary of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, which was established by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1990 and is charged with reviewing complaints against attorneys.
Lain admitted in a petition filed with the Louisiana Supreme Court that he stole the money and requested to resign from practicing law in lieu of any disciplinary action.
"The respondent has acknowledged to (the Office of Disciplinary Counsel) that he converted in excess of $500,000 in client funds and also acknowledges that no restitution has been made," Lain wrote in his petition to the Supreme Court. "Wishing to accept responsibility for his actions, the respondent respectfully submits this petition for permanent resignation in lieu of discipline."
In an answer to the civil suit, Lain's attorney, James Rountree, responded to his client's admittance of converting the money to personal use.
"Defendant has been ill and unable to manage his affairs to the extent necessary to operate a law office," he wrote. "Any such admission, if made, is unlikely to be accurate."
In the suit, Robinson alleges that Lain took the money in 2008, which Lain's attorney denied for lack of evidence.
Crawford provided information about the missing funds to the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office but was told no charges would be brought against Lain.
"I received a telephone call from Doug Walker, an assistant district attorney, about 10 days ago, and he told me that (District Attorney Jerry Jones) was not going to prosecute Mr. Lain because of concerns over his health condition," Crawford said. "I don't know anything about his health condition."
When asked about the case, Jones told The News-Star, "The case is under review."
Lain could not be reached for comment. However, his wife confirmed he is battling dementia.
In his resignation request, which was accepted by the court, Lain agreed to never practice law in Louisiana or any other jurisdiction, permanently resign from the practice of law in all jurisdictions in which he is admitted and never seek readmission.
Judge Robert Johnson has been assigned to the civil case.
Crawford said even though Lain resigned, the family deserves to be repaid the missing money.
"My clients are simply seeking some form of restitution and accountability for the misconduct of their former attorney, and we will persist in pursuing every appropriate avenue that we can in pursuing justice," he said.
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