A Pittsburgh divorce lawyer who went missing after taking a retainer from clients, and who was also a no-show at proceedings in his own divorce, can no longer practice law in Pennsylvania.
Caleb Clinton Bissett, a 34-year-old Allegheny County lawyer, was disbarred Sept. 22 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Bissett, who had practiced at Bissett Law Office on Ross Street in Pittsburgh, began “ignoring the rules and abandoning his clients” in late 2014, according to an opinion from the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board.
Bissett also failed to show for his own legal proceedings. According to the board, he failed to repay his ex-wife for more than $30,000 in student loans and missed enforcement and contempt proceedings in Allegheny County for their divorce. After his law license was suspended, he did not appear at a prehearing conference or disciplinary hearing.
Bissett’s only participation in the disciplinary proceedings, the opinion said, was filing a post-hearing brief in January.
“Respondent offered an apology and stated that his actions were not meant to be malicious,” the board said.
Bissett acknowledged that his clients are owed money, but did not offer a plan to reimburse them, the opinion said, instead suggesting they seek money from the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security.
The board’s opinion named several clients from whom Bissett took retainers of up to several thousand dollars. He did a small amount of legal work in some of those cases before becoming unreachable. One client reached out to Bissett’s cellphone multiple times and emailed him in 2015, before calling his office and learning he had been banned from the building.
According to the opinion, Bissett had relocated to the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, Texas, and is not practicing law.
“Although respondent has no record of prior discipline, we do not consider that to be a compelling factor, as he began committing misconduct a mere three years after his bar admission,” the board said.
Attempts to reach Bissett on Monday were unsuccessful.