Originally Published: March 7, 2013 9:56 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Gil Shaw, a local attorney in private practice, has been suspended from practicing law for six months and one day by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Arizona Supreme Court and, once reinstated, must serve a probationary period, according to a court document.
The sanction is a result of Shaw's inaction in a case in which he represented Thomas Hunter.
"He didn't help me at all," Hunter said.
Hunter was served with an injunction for harassment in October 2010, and went to Shaw to file an appeal, Hunter said, but never signed a retainer or other paperwork. He did give Shaw a check for $850.
Shaw prepared a notice of appeal for him, but would not go to a mediation session with him, saying "attorneys just get in the way," according to the document, titled Report and Order Accepting Consent for Discipline.
After that mediation session, Shaw stopped taking his calls and didn't return voicemails, Hunter said.
"Out of four months' time, he only returned one phone call," Hunter said. He ended up contacting Shaw by driving from his home in Congress to Shaw's downtown Prescott office, where he would "pop into the office, and hopefully I'd catch him there. Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't," he said.
In early December 2010, Shaw told Hunter he was waiting for a letter from the court, but then Shaw again failed to return phone calls until January 2011, when Shaw told him he'd just filed a notice of appearance.
In February, the Superior Court dismissed Hunter's appeal because Shaw hadn't filed a memorandum and an audio recording requested by the court in December.
When Hunter went to the court to check on the case, he said he found that the only thing Shaw had filed was the notice of appeal. He looked Shaw up on the state bar's website and learned that Shaw's license was under suspension when he agreed to represent Hunter.
After that, he called John Napper, another local attorney, for help. Shaw, meanwhile, refunded Hunter's money but it took three months for him to return the audio recording and he still hasn't returned the case file, Hunter said.
"I blew Mr. Hunter's case, and I admitted that to him," Shaw told The Daily Courier.
However, he said, his admission to the charges was essentially like accepting a plea agreement, and Shaw said he didn't necessarily do everything attributed to him in the documents.
"I spent six months vigorously contesting most of this stuff, but at some point, you run out of money and you realize they're going to take disciplinary action against you anyway, regardless of what your issue is," Shaw said.
He disputes the claim that his license was suspended when he took on Hunter's case. He said he told Hunter he was not practicing at the time, but he could help him when he was reinstated, "which was in a couple, three or four weeks."
Shaw also said he was responsive to Hunter, calling him "kind of an intense client."
This is the fourth ethics violation for Shaw, who was first admitted to practice law in 1983, the report said. He was previously censured and placed on probation for a year in 2008 for mishandling a divorce case; suspended for six months and then served probation in 2010 for failure to communicate with clients and failure to appear in court; and was given an order of probation in 2012, according to the report.
In a letter to Hunter, Staff Bar Counsel Stacy L. Shuman said, "The significance of the additional day (above the six months' suspension) is that if Mr. Shaw seeks reinstatement to the practice of law, he will have to establish, among other things, that he has been rehabilitated, compliance with all applicable discipline orders and rules, fitness to practice, and competence."
Whether Shaw will do all that is uncertain at this point.
"I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm fed up with the practice of law and I'm fed up with the state bar," he said. "The disciplinary system we have is broken.
"It quit being fun a while ago. Will I come back to it? I don't know."
His suspension begins April 1.