Bar Counsel: Your New, New Year’s Resolutions
From Washington Lawyer, February 2008
By Bill Ross
By now, even the best intentioned among us have made—and already broken—our new year’s resolutions. Always ready to help, we at the Office of Bar Counsel have come up with some replacement resolutions to help get you through the rest of the year:
- Reread the Rules. Take some time to refamiliarize yourself with the Rules of Professional Conduct, as amended February 2007. If you have misplaced your copy or worn it out from overuse, you may find another one on the D.C. Bar’s Web site.
- Think About Civility. One of the most common complaints we receive is that attorneys have acted in an uncivil manner, either in their personal or professional lives. Even though Bar Counsel cannot discipline attorneys for violating the Bar’s Voluntary Standards of Civility in Professional Conduct, it is worth considering whether your behavior is unfavorably impacting your clients or your professional reputation. Civility also is good business. Take this time to brush up on your reading by visiting www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/ethics /legal_ethics/voluntary_standards_for_civility/index.cfm.
- Return Phone Calls and E-mail Promptly. Another common complaint we receive is that attorneys have failed to adequately communicate, either by neglecting to return calls or e-mail, or by failing to keep clients apprised of important developments in the representation. If you promptly answer inquiries from clients, opposing counsel, or others, there is much less chance that anything will fall through the cracks.
- Make Someone Smile Daily. It’s far easier than it sounds. Sometimes all it takes is your own bright smile or a simple acknowledgement that you appreciate something that someone has done for you. It will make you feel better, too, and who knows, someone may return the favor at the most opportune time. (And sometimes with opposing counsel, you need it!)
- Reconcile Your Trust Account(s). This is crucial. How can you safeguard the funds of clients or third parties if you don’t even know what’s in your trust account? If you are overwhelmed, get help before the situation gets out of hand. The Bar can offer assistance navigating the requirements relating to handling entrusted funds. You can reach the Bar’s Practice Management Advisory Service at 202-737-4700, ext. 212, or visit www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/bar_services/practice_management_advisory_service/index.cfm.
- Review Your Retainer Agreement. If a dispute arises regarding the scope of representation or fees charged in an attorney–client relationship, nothing is more important than the language in your retainer agreement. A well-drafted retainer agreement also can help avoid misunderstandings and disputes as the representation evolves. If you use a standard retainer agreement with all clients, take the time to make sure it makes sense and complies with your obligations under the ethical rules. Each time you enter into a new retainer agreement with a client, you also should make sure the terms make sense for that particular representation.
- Train Your Staff. Because you are vicariously liable for ethical misconduct by nonlawyer assistants and subordinate lawyers, it absolutely is crucial that you make sure your staff understands your firm’s obligations under the Rules. In particular, make sure your staff appreciates the implications of Rule 1.6 relating to confidentiality and secrets of a client. Something as seemingly simple as a member of your support staff mentioning who visited your office can result in a violation of Rule 1.6. Clearly explaining your expectations as well as the reasons behind important office practices helps prevent misunderstandings down the road and improves your relationship with subordinates. A positive workplace will help you retain crucial staff, and nothing helps ensure the success of a practice better than quality employees.
Bill Ross is an assistant bar counsel.
Disciplinary Actions Taken by the Board on Professional Responsibility
In re N. Carl Cannon. Bar No. 444460. October 4, 2007. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Cannon by consent, and that his disbarment run, for purposes of reinstatement, from the date the Court of Appeals issues the appropriate order, and after Cannon files an affidavit in compliance with D.C. Bar R. XI, § 14(g).
In re Ali D. Jafroodi. Bar No. 432899. November 20, 2007. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Jafroodi based on his criminal conviction for violation of Florida Statute § 893.13(1)(a)(2), which makes it “unlawful for any person to sell, manufacture, or deliver, or possess with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, a controlled substance,” a crime involving moral turpitude per se, for which D.C. Code § 11-2503(a) mandates disbarment.
In re Oscar S. Mayers. Bar No. 407619. November 9, 2007. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Mayers for 18 months. Mayers filed false documents and statements in contested domestic relations litigation with his former wife. Specifically, in a child support proceeding where Mayers’s former wife was claiming violations of a prior order and substantial arrearages, Mayers submitted altered checks and false statements to claim he had made more payments than he actually had made. Rules 3.3(a)(1), 3.4(a), 3.4(b), 8.4(a), 8.4(b), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).
In re Michael W. Coopet. Bar No. 392884. October 2, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from California, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Coopet for two years, stayed in favor of a nine-month suspension followed by three–years’ probation subject to the terms imposed in California, and that the period of suspension run consecutively to the 60–day period of actual suspension in Coopet I, to correspond to the California discipline. The Supreme Court of California imposed discipline on Coopet based on his failure to provide the California Office of Probation with proof of payment of restitution to a former client, as previously ordered by the California court in an earlier disciplinary case (Coopet I).
In re Lester W. Firstenberger. Bar No. 427806. November 20, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Massachusetts, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Firstenberger for six months and one day, subject to the terms imposed in Massachusetts. The misconduct that served as the basis for the discipline imposed by the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County Massachusetts concerned two mortgages on Firstenberger’s home. Firstenberger violated Massachusetts Rules pertaining to dishonesty and conduct adversely reflecting on fitness to practice law.
In re Maria Ines Gonzalez. Bar No. 439718. November 30, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from New Jersey, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose the functionally equivalent reciprocal discipline of a three-month suspension, provided that Gonzalez establishes that she already has been reinstated to practice in New Jersey on a summary basis. If Gonzalez does not, the board recommends that the court impose a requirement to prove fitness to practice, subject to vacatur upon proof that Gonzalez has been summarily reinstated in New Jersey. The Supreme Court of New Jersey issued an order suspending Gonzalez for three months and requiring that upon reinstatement, she practice under the supervision of a practicing attorney approved by the Office of Attorney Ethics for one year. Gonzalez allowed an employee, who was an unlicensed law school graduate, to perform the services of a lawyer in personal injury matters.
In re Mark S. Guberman. Bar No. 442683. November 6, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose nonidentical reciprocal discipline and suspend Guberman for 18 months, effective immediately, but deemed to commence for purposes of reinstatement on November 17, 2006, the date on which Guberman filed an affidavit in compliance with the requirements of D.C. Bar R. XI, § 14(g). The Court of Appeals of Maryland disbarred Guberman for engaging in conduct involving dishonesty and misrepresentation by falsely representing to representatives of his law firm that he had filed an appeal on behalf of his client. Further, the Maryland court found that Guberman engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice by creating bogus file-stamps on the purported pleadings and falsely certifying that the pleadings had been filed with the court. No misstatements concerning the purported appeal were directed to the courts or to the client.
In re Jason S. Guetzkow. Bar No. 490926. November 19, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from California, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Guetzkow for one year, stayed in favor of a 90-day suspension followed by two years’ probation subject to the terms and conditions imposed in California. The Supreme Court of California based its discipline on a stipulation wherein Guetzkow admitted to misconduct in three separate client matters. Guetzkow violated California Rules pertaining to competence, communication, failure to take reasonable steps to avoid reasonably foreseeable prejudice to a client upon termination of employment, failure to return unearned fee, failure to return client property upon termination of employment, and failure to cooperate with disciplinary investigation.
In re John L. Hill. Bar No. 439358. November 26, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Hill for 30 days. The Court of Appeals of Maryland suspended Hill for 30 days for violations of Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 (diligence), 1.4 (communication), 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) in two separate matters. In the first matter, Hill was retained to prepare and obtain an Eligible Domestic Relations Order (EDRO) necessary for his client to receive half of his ex-wife’s state employee retirement benefits. Hill did not prepare the EDRO or cause it to be executed before his client’s ex-wife remarried, notwithstanding his client’s numerous requests to treat the matter expeditiously. The client was thus rendered ineligible to share his ex–wife’s pension. In the second matter, Hill was retained to represent a father in a domestic relations case involving child visitation rights. Although Hill agreed to prepare a written consent order within two weeks, he did not prepare or submit it notwithstanding calls from the Master’s office and calls and two letters from his client. When the order had not been filed after more than six months, a judge of the Circuit Court issued an order requiring Hill to show cause why sanctions and costs should not be imposed. Without informing his client that the show-cause order had been issued or that the parties had been ordered to appear in court, Hill prepared a consent order, sent it to opposing counsel for signature, and submitted it with signatures on the date of the show-cause hearing. Hill did not inform his client that he had prepared the consent order and did not send it to him for review. The consent order was later signed by the court. In addition, Maryland Bar Counsel made two requests of respondent to produce his file, but he did not comply.
In re Phillip T. Howard. Bar No. 457694. October 2, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Florida, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose the functionally identical reciprocal discipline of a public censure. The Supreme Court of Florida publicly reprimanded Howard, placed him on probation for one year, and directed him to attend Ethics School and pay costs to the Florida Bar. Howard executed a Conditional Guilty Plea for Consent Judgment in which he stipulated to violating Florida Rules pertaining to threatening to present criminal charges and disciplinary charges, solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.
In re Robert E. Howard. Bar No. 329029. November 19, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the Board on Professional Responsibility imposed identical reciprocal discipline and issued Howard a board reprimand. The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board issued Howard a public reprimand with terms based on an agreed disposition with Bar Counsel in which he stipulated to the findings of fact and conclusions of law that formed the basis of the Virginia discipline. The Virginia Board found that Howard violated rules pertaining to competence and promptness, communication with a represented party, failure of prompt delivery of property to client or third parties, and trust account record keeping.
In re Dimone G. Long. Bar No. 492053. October 2, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Long, effective immediately. The Maryland disciplinary matter arose from six disciplinary complaints pending against Long. In the Joint Petition for Disbarment by Consent, Long acknowledged that if a hearing were held, sufficient evidence could be produced to sustain allegations that he engaged in misconduct that included he misrepresented to clients in two personal injury cases that the cases were not moving forward because the insurance adjustor was uncooperative when, in fact, Long was not pursuing the matters; misrepresented the status of a personal injury matter to another client, telling her that another attorney was handling the case when there was, in fact, no other attorney working on her case; and improperly placed a $10,000 attorneys’ lien on the case of another client after he was terminated one day after being retained to represent the client in a personal injury matter and after no work was done on behalf of the client. The Maryland Joint Petition further stated that in Maryland Bar Counsel’s complaint, Long was charged with attempted first-degree murder in Prince George’s County, and on February 8, 2007, convicted of second-degree assault.
In re Alfred A. Page Jr. Bar No. 480892. October 17, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose functionally identical reciprocal discipline and publicly censure Page, with the additional terms imposed in Maryland. The Maryland court reprimanded Page, who also is a certified public accountant, and required him to undergo two years of supervision by an escrow and practice monitor for failing to communicate with his client in a divorce and child support action, failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in that representation, failing to keep complete records of the monies received so that Page could identify the account into which he deposited the client’s retainer, commingling funds, violating multiple provisions of Article 10 of the Maryland Code Business Occupations and Professions, and failing to respond to inquiries by the Maryland Office of Bar Counsel in a timely manner.
In re Christopher H. Reed. Bar No. 451941. November 20, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Arizona, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Reed for three years with fitness, as identical reciprocal discipline. The Supreme Court of Arizona suspended Reed from the practice of law for three years with the equivalent of a fitness requirement, ordered that upon reinstatement, he be placed on probation for two years (with terms to be decided at the time of reinstatement), and ordered him to pay a total of $25,818.58 in restitution to eight individuals and the Maricopa County, Arizona, Clerk of Court. The Arizona discipline was based on 12 instances of misappropriation on the part of Reed. The other principal disciplinary offenses include eight violations of rules governing lack of diligence, nine cases of failure to communicate with clients, 16 instances of misconduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and 15 knowing failures to respond to a disciplinary authority’s lawful demands for information. Moreover, Reed’s serious offenses were aggravated by his “bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary proceeding by intentionally failing to comply with rules or orders of the disciplinary agency” and his “indifference to making restitution.”
In re Stephen J. Williams. Bar No. 422088. October 3, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Connecticut, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose reciprocal discipline of a six-month suspension, but with the added requirement that Williams prove his fitness to practice law as a condition of reinstatement. The State of Connecticut Superior Court for the Judicial District of Windham suspended Williams for six months and conditioned his reinstatement upon completion of an approved course of instruction on legal ethics and Connecticut Practice and Procedure. Williams, who elected to contest a speeding ticket issued in Connecticut, listed his address as a post office box in Hong Kong, rather than use his Connecticut address. Williams, thereafter, closed his Hong Kong post office box, ensuring that he did not receive notice of his scheduled court appearance. Once he did appear in court, Williams sought multiple continuances to obtain counsel but never retained counsel. Williams then sought to subpoena the trial judge, prosecutor, and the court clerk. The Connecticut court found that rather than following the normal procedures for seeking reinstatement of his license to drive, Williams engaged in a vexatious course of conduct that “parlay[ed] a simple motor vehicle hearing into a monumental, unnecessary, time-consuming, labor-intensive and ineffectual attack on the Deputy Clerk of the Court, the Central Infraction Bureau and the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.” The board found that Williams’s actions in Connecticut that served “to obfuscate, inflame and attenuate a simple legal proceeding,” along with his various filings made in the District of Columbia, “evince serious doubt about his fitness to practice law.”
In re Charles C. Wright. Bar no. 329888. November 20, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Pennsylvania, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Wright as identical reciprocal discipline. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s disbarment was based on Wright’s convictions in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia of third-degree felony sexual abuse of children, first-degree misdemeanor possession of instruments of crime, and third-degree felony criminal use of a communications facility. The board recommends that Wright be disbarred as identical reciprocal discipline based on the Pennsylvania court’s order of disbarment.
Disciplinary Actions Taken by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals
In re N. Carl Cannon. Bar No. 444460. November 1, 2007. The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Cannon by consent, effective forthwith.
In re Samuel Cooper III. Bar No. 175745. November 21, 2007. The D.C. Court of Appeals suspended Cooper for 30 days, effective immediately. The court further ordered that Cooper’s reinstatement be conditioned both on proof of his fitness to resume the practice of law and on his full compliance with Bar Counsel’s subpoena, entered on October 15, 2003. The court further ordered that the briefs and record in this matter filed with the court under seal be unsealed. Cooper violated D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3) (failure to comply with court order) and District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1(b) (failure to respond to Bar Counsel’s lawful demand for information) and 8.4(d) (conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice). Cooper’s misconduct arose out of his failure to respond to Bar Counsel’s inquires regarding asserted discrepancies in his trust account.
In re Stanley D. Schwartz. Bar No. 11601. October 25, 2007. The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Schwartz by consent, effective forthwith.
In re Carlos H. Caceres Jr. Bar No. 466265. November 21, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Caceres. The Court of Appeals of Maryland disbarred Caceres after he stipulated to violating Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 (competence); 1.2 (scope of representation); 1.3 (diligence); 1.4 (communication); 1.5 (safekeeping property); 1.16(d) (declining or terminating representation); 8.4(a) (violation of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct); 8.4(c) (dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation); and, 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). In addition, Caceres violated Maryland Rules 16-604, 16-607, and 16-609, and Maryland Business Occupations and Professional Articles §§ 10-304, 10-306, and 10-307. These violations stemmed from allegations that Caceres misrepresented the status of seven immigration cases to his clients and his employer, took client funds and failed to deposit them in an escrow account in six of the cases, and deposited client funds into his personal bank account in two of the cases. It also was alleged that Caceres failed to file a timely application for relief in one matter resulting in an order of deportation, created fraudulent court documents in a second case, and failed to return calls in another matter.
In re G. Scott Christenson. Bar No. 362377. November 15, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from California, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and suspended Christenson for one year, with all but 60 days stayed, and conditioned his reinstatement on satisfying the terms and conditions imposed by the state of California, including payment of restitution, and compliance with probationary conditions. If Christenson fails to comply with the California terms and remains suspended for a period of two or more years there, then reinstatement shall be conditioned on the demonstration of fitness to practice law in accordance with D.C. Bar R. XI, § 3(a)(2). The discipline imposed by the Supreme Court of California was based on Christenson’s failure to meet with his client, file an appeal, or return an unearned $5,000 advance fee in a criminal matter. Christenson also failed to cooperate and participate in the California disciplinary investigation and proceeding.
In re Richard P. Condon. Bar No. 354076. November 21, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Florida, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Condon. The Supreme Court of Florida disbarred Condon for dishonesty, misappropriation, and negligence in representing clients, and it imposed costs of $13,650 resulting from the Florida disciplinary proceeding against him.
In re C. Wayne K. Davis. Bar No. 467768. November 21, 2007. The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Davis. Davis pleaded guilty to the felony offense of stealing in violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 570.030.1 and 570.030.3, a crime involving moral turpitude per se, for which D.C. Code § 11-2503(a) mandates disbarment.
In re Mary I. Duval. Bar No. 367682. November 21, 2007. In a consolidated reciprocal matter from Maryland, the D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Duval as identical reciprocal discipline. In the first matter, the Court of Appeals of Maryland indefinitely suspended Duval for various violations of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct, including failure to return unearned fees in a timely manner upon termination of representation, failure to deposit unearned fees into an escrow account, failure to respond or cooperate with Maryland Bar Counsel, and lying to an inquiry panel. In the second, matter the Maryland court disbarred Duval for failure to communicate with a client, commingling, failure to deliver promptly the unearned fees to a client upon conclusion of representation, failure to respond to the Maryland Bar Counsel, and misappropriation.
In re Jodie Grossman. Bar No. 424061. November 15, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Massachusetts, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed substantially different reciprocal discipline and disbarred Grossman. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County indefinitely suspended Grossman, with the right to reapply in five years, for intentionally misusing and converting client funds, failing to safeguard and promptly pay or deliver funds, failing to account for the funds when she wrote two checks from her escrow account made payable to cash, and submitting fabricated evidence and making misrepresentations to Bar Counsel.
In re Phillip T. Howard. Bar No. 457694. November 29, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Florida, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed functionally identical reciprocal discipline and ordered that Howard be publicly censured. The Supreme Court of Florida publicly reprimanded Howard for violating Florida Bar Rules 4-3.4(g) and 4-3.4(h). (See the summary of the Board Report in this column.)
In re Joel D. Kenwood. Bar No. 387073. November 1, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Florida, the D.C. Court of Appeals admonished Kenwood as reciprocal discipline. The Supreme Court of Florida entered an order of admonishment after Kenwood admitted to violations of the Florida Bar Rules, including violations of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct involving confidentiality of information, conflict of interest, and protection of client’s interest upon termination of representation. Although an admonishment by the Court of Appeals is not a sanction provided for in D.C. Bar Rule XI, the court determined that it was appropriate to apply the foreign jurisdiction in haec verba and admonish Kenwood.
In re Warren R. Kraft. Bar No. 425676. October 11, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from New Jersey, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Kraft. The Supreme Court of New Jersey disbarred Kraft for knowingly misappropriating client funds.
In re Fredric D. Leffler. Bar No. 388671. November 21, 2007. The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Leffler. Leffler was found guilty after a jury trial in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland of six counts of mail fraud and 11 counts of wire fraud, crimes involving moral turpitude per se, for which D.C. Code § 11–2503(a) mandates disbarment.
In re Peter R. Maignan. Bar No. 461974. November 8, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed nonidentical reciprocal discipline and suspended Maignan for six months, nunc pro tunc to February 20, 2007. Prior to reinstatement Maignan must prove fitness, but he is permitted to move to vacate the fitness requirement if he is summarily reinstated in Maryland without objection from Maryland Bar Counsel. The Court of Appeals of Maryland indefinitely suspended Maignan for violations of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct involving competence, commingling, and misappropriation that was not intentional, disbursing client funds, and interfering with the administration of justice.
In re Mary H. Richardson. Bar No. 427477. November 8, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from New Jersey, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and suspended Richardson for six months with fitness. The Supreme Court of New Jersey suspended Richardson for six months and “until further order of [the New Jersey] court” for violations of the New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct, including the failure to safeguard funds; failure to promptly deliver funds; record-keeping violations; failure to expedite litigation; fairness to opposing party; truthfulness; criminal conduct that reflects adversely on an attorney’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or representation; and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
In re Edward A. Slavin Jr. Bar No. 413136. November 21, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Tennessee, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Slavin. The Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred Slavin for having: (1) engaged in misrepresentation and deceit, both to the courts and his clients; (2) failed to preserve client property; (3) charged excessive fees; (4) violated court orders; (5) demonstrated incompetence and lack of diligence; and (6) abused the legal process by habitually violating that state’s rules regarding harassment and intimidation of officers of the court, opposing counsel, and the filing of abusive, insulting, untrue, and unprofessional statements regarding judges, litigants, and opposing counsel.
In re Mark Steven Weiss. Bar No. 376283. November 15, 2007. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and suspended Weiss for five years, with reinstatement conditioned upon Weiss providing proof of his compliance with the requirements imposed under the Virginia court’s disciplinary order. The Virginia discipline was based on an agreed disposition wherein Weiss admitted to mishandling a medical malpractice action on behalf of his client and violating Virginia Disciplinary Rules relating to negligence, competence, failure to abide by a client’s objectives, failure to communicate, safekeeping property, failing to withdraw from the representation, bringing frivolous claims, candor toward a tribunal, fairness to opposing party/counsel, truthfulness to third parties, false statements on a bar application, and dishonesty.
In re Robert Joel Zakroff. Bar No. 163337. October 25, 2007. The D.C. Court of Appeals remanded this reciprocal matter to the Board on Professional Responsibility. The board, in its Report and Recommendation, had recommended that the court disbar Zakroff as reciprocal discipline identical to that imposed by the Court of Appeals of Maryland. The Maryland court had disbarred Zakroff for misconduct, including intentional misappropriation of client funds in his personal injury practice over a period of two and a half years and intentional dishonesty in a bankruptcy matter he handled. The Maryland court found that Zakroff’s evidence as to his depression, mood disorder, and personality disorder failed to satisfy Maryland’s Vanderlinde mitigation standard, which “requires that the disability be nothing ‘less than the most serious and utterly debilitating’ mental condition and that the condition be not only the ‘root cause’ of the misconduct but also result in the attorney’s utter inability to conform his or her conduct in accordance with the law and with the MRPC.” The D.C. Court of Appeals accepted the board’s recommendation that reciprocal discipline should be imposed, but deferred judgment on the recommendation that Zakroff be disbarred. The court concluded that Maryland’s Vanderlinde mitigation standard sets a bar substantially higher than D.C.’s Kersey mitigation standard, and that with respect to Zakroff’s misappropriation of client funds, the findings of the Maryland court established that Zakroff satisfied the first two prongs of D.C.’s Kersey standard. The court could not conclude on the record, however, whether Zakroff had satisfied the third prong of Kersey, that is, that he had been substantially rehabilitated from his disability. Accordingly, the court remanded the matter to the board to determine whether Zakroff can demonstrate that he has been substantially rehabilitated from his disability and that a sanction less than disbarment is appropriate and, if so, what sanction, and further for a determination as to how Zakroff’s dishonesty in connection with the separate bankruptcy matter should impact the sanction to be imposed.
Informal Admonitions Issued by the Office of Bar Counsel
In re Ursula B. Bonar. Bar No. 460083. October 29, 2007. Bar Counsel issued Bonar an informal admonition for failing to take reasonable efforts to determine the status of her clients’ immigration case, proceeding to conduct a merits hearing without adequately preparing her clients, failing to promptly file a motion to continue the hearing and application for adjustment of status, and representing two clients when there was a conflict of interest without obtaining their informed consent. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.3(a), 1.3(b)(1), 1.3(b)(2), 1.3(c), 1.7(b)(2), and 1.7(b)(3).
In re David W. Draper Jr. Bar No. 434137. August 3, 2007. Bar Counsel issued Draper an informal admonition for tendering and notarizing documents to tribunals with signatures that failed to reflect accurately the date notarized and failing to comply with requirements concerning supervision of a nonlawyer employee. Rules 5.1, 5.3, and 8.4(d).
In re L. Darren Goldberg. Bar No. 450336. August 3, 2007. Bar Counsel issued Goldberg an informal admonition for tendering and notarizing documents to tribunals with signatures that failed to reflect accurately the date notarized and failing to comply with requirements concerning supervision of a nonlawyer employee. Rules 5.1, 5.3., and 8.4(d).
In re Martin F. Killingham. Bar No. 309518. September 27, 2007. Bar Counsel issued Killingham an informal admonition for representing a current client whose interests were adverse to another client without obtaining the requisite consent, failing to withdraw from a representation that would result in violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and failing to provide zealous, diligent, and competent representation. Rules 1.3(a), 1.7(b)(2), 1.7(b)(3), 1.7(c), and 1.16(a)(1). In the alternative, for representing a client adverse to a former client’s interests in a related matter and/or providing advice to an unrepresented party. Rules 1.9 and/or 4.3.
In re Romney Wright. Bar No. 319491. October 29, 2007. Bar Counsel issued Wright an informal admonition for failing to promptly notify the client of a significant decision in his case and withdrawing from the representation at a point in the process that would have made it difficult for the client to obtain new counsel and timely respond to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services letter, and/or failing to notify her client that she was withdrawing. Rules 1.4(a) and 1.16(d).
The Office of Bar Counsel compiled the foregoing summaries of disciplinary actions. Reports and Recommendations issued by the Board on Professional Responsibility are posted on the D.C. Bar Web site at www. dcbar.org/discipline. Most Board on Professional Responsibility recommendations as to discipline are not final until considered by the court. Court opinions are printed in the Atlantic Reporter and also are available online for decisions issued after January 1, 1997. To obtain a copy of a recent slip opinion, visit the D.C. Court of Appeals’ Web site at www.dccourts.gov/internet/opinionlocator.jsf.
Informal Admonitions issued by Bar Counsel are posted on the D.C. Bar Web site at www.dcbar.org/discipline/informal_ ads.cfm.