Veteran Baton Rouge lawyer Bruce A. Craft is permanently barred from practicing law, and state officials say they are scrambling to locate clients with open cases that could number in the hundreds.
On Wednesday, the Louisiana Supreme Court accepted Craft’s “permanent resignation in lieu of discipline.” That means Craft cannot seek readmission to the practice of law in Louisiana or any other state or jurisdiction, according to the court’s order.
The state Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigated “numerous complaints of serious professional misconduct filed against” Craft, according to the Supreme Court’s order. “These matters involve a pattern by (Craft) of accepting fees from clients, failing to complete the agreed-upon legal tasks, and then failing or refusing to refund the unearned fees.”
In Baton Rouge alone, Craft has worked on more than 800 criminal and civil cases over the past 25 years, court records show.
Some were high-profile cases, such as Craft’s defense of former White Castle Mayor Maurice A. Brown against federal racketeering, bribery and wire fraud charges two years ago. Brown, who was snared in an FBI sting known as Operation Blighted Officials, was convicted by a jury in March 2011. He is serving a 10-year prison term.
In one of Craft’s pending cases, he was representing Desha Maria Penco Gay in her petition for divorce from Randall Jerome Gay II, a former LSU football star who holds two Super Bowl rings for his play as a cornerback for both the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.
Pending cases are what concern Charles Plattsmier, chief counsel for the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
“We have spoken to Mr. Craft,” Plattsmier said Wednesday. “He told us he has a number of open and active client files. It is a high volume of cases.”
Plattsmier said the total of pending cases is “perhaps several hundred.”
Chief Judge Trudy White of the 19th Judicial District Court will be asked to appoint other attorneys as curators of Craft’s pending cases, Plattsmier said. He said those curators would be responsible for locating all of Craft’s affected clients and letting them know where and how to pick up their case files.
“We think that’s probably the most efficient way to get it done quickly,” Plattsmier said.
“We want to make sure that everyone is called.”