TUCSON – The News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned that an Arizona attorney with Tucson connections has been suspended from practicing law. The attorney, Augustine Jimenez III, better known as Augie, has been suspended for 18 months for violating the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct.
“Over a period of about a year, he made several inappropriate withdrawals from the trust fund, amounting to about $125,000,” said Joe Hengemuehler of the State Bar of Arizona.
The Consent Agreement filed in State Supreme Court says the 56-year old Jimenez admitted he made 50 unauthorized withdrawals from clients trust accounts. He did put the money back in the accounts later, but withdrawals can only be made with the client’s permission.
“A trust fund is essentially monies tied to representation that doesn’t belong to the attorney,” Hengemuehler told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. “So they’re used for settlements, those sorts of things.”
We called Jimenez and requested an on-camera interview. He politely declined but sent this statement:
“I have agreed to an 18-month suspension of my license to practice law. My suspension arises from the mismanagement of my trust account during the time I was dealing with health issues, the passing of my mother and the retirement of my office manager. No one was harmed by the mismanagement. Notwithstanding, the rules are clear and there are no excuses. I am thankful for the Bar’s understanding and the level of support I have received from my former clients, colleagues, judges and friends.
I look forward to continuing my career and helping the people of Arizona.”
Jimenez is based in Phoenix but has strong Tucson ties: a sports practice field at UA is named after him. He graduated from UA in 1985 and in 2004 made a large donation to the UA Foundation. Jimenez was in the news recently for representing the woman who accused former Wildcats football coach Rich Rodriguez of sexual harassment, which Rodriguez strongly denied in an interview with the News 4 Tucson Investigators in March. Jimenez self-reported his violations and has no prior discipline on his record with the State Bar.
We asked Bill Walker, a long-time Tucson attorney (who does not know Jimenez but read the case documents), “On a one to 10, how serious is this violation?” Walker said, “I probably have a different opinion than a lot of people do about this. I would say it’s about a four,” he said. “What he did was wrong. I think he should have been disciplined, maybe a reprimand or sanction. But to suspend him from the practice of law for 18 months on a first violation, I think it’s too severe. He was having all kinds of problems. He engaged in some behavior that was not typical for him. He took some money out of the trust account in order to cover some expenses of his own when he was having a bad time,” Walker added.
We asked Hengemuehler of the State Bar (which only recommends discipline to the State Supreme Court) about the range of penalties that Jimenez could have received. “That’s on the table in every case, but again, based on the totality of the facts,” he said.
The State Bar website has advice for consumers who have concerns about their lawyer. You can read it by clicking here.
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