Casper Attorney Suspended by Wyoming Supreme Court
The Wyoming Supreme Court has suspended a Casper attorney for a period of nine months after concluding that she violated the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct.
Traci E. Mears will be suspended effective June 15. She has also been ordered to reimburse the Board of Professional Responsibility $8,149.06 for the cost of the proceedings, and pay an administrative fee of $750.
"Bar Counsel filed a formal charging alleging that Mears violated Rule 8.1 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits a lawyer from knowingly making a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter, and 8.4(c), which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation," Wyoming State Bar Executive Director Sharon Wilkinson said in a statement.
Mears was involved in a romantic relationship with Dr. Robert Cushner from the summer of 2014 until December 2014. Mears received $11,487 from Cushner, with payment made in October 2014.
After the romantic relationship ended, Cushner filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Responsibility and claimed that Mears was his attorney, she had borrowed money from him and had refused to pay it back as they had agreed.
An investigation found that Mears had not engaged in an improper transaction with a client, so Mears was not accused of violating that particular rule. However, during the investigation, Mears reportedly made false claims regarding her use of the money.
Mears was also accused of providing doctored copies of breakup emails between herself and Cushner.
As to the money, Mears claimed that Cushner's large dog had severely injured her smaller dog, and caused damage to her two homes in Casper and Jackson, respectively. She said the dog attack had resulted in over $7,000 worth of veterinary bills.
Mears claimed the payment was reimbursement, but Cushner maintained that he had loaned her the money and expected to be repaid.
However, all of the veterinary bills submitted by Mears were dated in 2015, after her relationship with Cushner had ended. Veterinary records also did not show any injury inflicted by a larger dog during the period of the romantic relationship.
The court also found details about the repairs to Mears's home to be "implausible." In addition, the court found it "significant" that Mears had represented the owner of the construction company in his divorce. The invoice date -- Oct. 11, 2014 -- is one day after Mears had filed a divorce complaint on his behalf.
"Ms. Mears's representation of the owner in his divorce provided an opportunity for her to enlist his aid in fabricating evidence," the order of suspension reads in part. "Taking this evidence in total, we find clear and convincing proof that Ms. Mears misrepresented the damages done by Dr. Cushner's dog and the extent and cost of resulting repairs."
The court also quoted the Board of Professional Responsibility's finding, which said that Mears simply spent the money from Cushner on ordinary living and business expenses.
Mears most recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July 2017.
She holds an active license to practice law in Washington State.