- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Supreme Court plans to censure a Billings attorney for engaging in a conflict of interest by representing a married couple in a 2007 drug case.

Solomon Neuhardt was ordered to appear before the Supreme Court in Helena on April 29 for censure, which is a step below disbarment, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/1gqDyon) reported Thursday. The court also ordered that Neuhardt be suspended from practicing law for 90 days, starting June 2, and pay the costs of the investigation.

Neuhardt, a personal injury attorney, has been disciplined three other times dating back to 2007 and faces hearings on two more complaints later this month.

He did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on Thursday seeking comment.

In its April 1 order, the court said it was concerned about Neuhardt’s “inability to appreciate the existence of even a potential for conflict of interest” in his representation of the couple, which the court said “suggests a pattern of his lack of understanding of the rules governing a lawyer’s conduct.”

The January 2013 complaint against Neuhardt alleged he represented both Tommy Vasquez and Vasquez’s then-wife Adrian Christenson, during a federal investigation into methamphetamine distribution in the Billings area. The Commission on Practice found Neuhardt violated rules of conduct by “engaging in a concurrent conflict of interest” in June 2007 and August 2008 meetings with drug task-force officers despite the significant risk that his representation of Christensen, who was a confidential informant against Vasquez, would prejudice his representation of Vasquez.

Vasquez, who was later represented by another attorney, pleaded guilty to a federal drug-distribution charge in April 2008 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Supreme Court agreed with the commission that a long delay in handling the case caused a hardship to Neuhardt’s ability to defend the charges and therefore lessened potential sanctions.

Neuhardt was suspended from practice for four months in 2007 and publicly admonished in 2013, in both cases for having a sexual relationship with a client. He was censured in 2011 for committing several violations of the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct involving competence, diligence, communication and return of client papers and property.

Two more complaints are pending against Neuhardt, with hearings before the Commission on Practice scheduled on April 24 in Billings.

A complaint filed in March alleges Neuhardt failed to hold in separate accounts nearly $35,000 in insurance money paid on behalf of two clients who had been in injured in separate accidents and failed to notify them when he received the money.

A complaint filed in October 2013 alleges Neuhardt’s efforts in representing a woman charged with DUI “wasted court and prosecution resources on frivolous motions that should not have been filed.”


Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com