Washington Lawyer

Bar Counsel's Page: Bar Counsel Investigations: No Complainant Required

From Washington Lawyer, October 2000

By Joyce E. Peters

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Reading the case summaries of disciplinary actions is rather like reading obituaries or the insider news of many publications. Never expecting to see their own names, lawyers read the summaries to see which of their colleagues were disciplined and why.

This month more cases are reported than usual, and many involve disbarments and serious misconduct. Any discipline, however, is a serious matter for a lawyer, and members of our Bar should read these summaries not only from curiosity, but also to understand what sort of conduct results in discipline. These summaries are not simply to publicize discipline, but also to discourage our membership from engaging in conduct that will ensnare them in the disciplinary system. Educating the Bar to discourage lawyers from committing disciplinary violations is one of Bar Counsel’s preventive law responsibilities recognized by our court. In re Sablonsky, 529 A.2d 289 (D.C. 1987).

In California, the state with the largest bar in the nation, there is another reason for its bar members to read the disciplinary summaries carefully. The California Bar advises its 133,812 members to scrutinize both the names on the case summaries and the reported bar numbers to make sure that disciplinary action has not inadvertently been taken against the wrong member because of mistaken name or identity!

The D.C. Bar, with approximately 74,000 members (slightly more than half the size of the California Bar), is the second largest unified bar, and a large bar for the size of our jurisdiction. Our membership, however, is not so large that careful screening of complaints cannot be done. Although an initial identity mistake is not impossible, because some members have the same name, checks and safeguards in the complaint intake process and in the disciplinary process itself ensure that the lawyer against whom a complaint is filed is correctly identified.

Complaints, however, arise from a variety of sources, so identifying the specific attorney against whom the complaint is lodged is not always easy. The written complaints we receive from individual clients, however, are usually not difficult. But it is a little misleading to suggest that every disciplinary complaint arrives at the Office of Bar Counsel in writing from a disgruntled client who has the exact name and bar number of the lawyer. In fact, Rule XI of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Rules Governing the Bar contemplates that Bar Counsel will investigate all sorts of matters involving alleged misconduct by lawyers subject to the court’s jurisdiction. This means that Bar Counsel will investigate not only allegations involving active and inactive members of our Bar, but also allegations against nonmembers of our Bar who have been admitted pro hac vice in one of our courts.

This latter situation is not as improbable as it sounds. Lawyers are constantly moving from government service into our local bar community (particularly during election years), and lawyers from other jurisdictions often move to our community to join firms or organizations. Even while awaiting admission to the D.C. Bar, these "foreign" lawyers become subject to our disciplinary rules if they are temporarily admitted to practice before our courts.

In Rule XI, § 6(a)(2), Bar Counsel is empowered and directed

to investigate all matters involving alleged misconduct by an attorney subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of this Court which may come to the attention of Bar Counsel or the Board from any source whatsoever, where the apparent facts, if true, may warrant discipline.

     Rule 2.2 of the board rules adopted by the Board on Professional Responsibility mirrors this rule. Thus, both the Board on Professional Responsibility and Bar Counsel are expected to be vigilant in matters that may involve disciplinary issues, so that appropriate investigations can be initiated and prompt action taken. As the board pointed out in its report adopted by our court in In re Banks, 461 A.2d 1038, 1040, "We have repeatedly interpreted this rule [referring to the predecessor to Rule XI, § 6(a)(2)] to mean that the source of the complaint is irrelevant in our proceedings. The only proper inquiry for the disciplinary system is whether the disciplinary rules have been violated."

So, what is the source of most complaints to Bar Counsel? The vast majority of the approximately 1,450 complaints received by Bar Counsel each year are in fact submitted in writing by individual complainants: most often disgruntled clients, but also unhappy family members, unpaid doctors and other professionals, and even opposing counsel. Some complaints arise from the self-reporting requirements of Rule XI, § 10(a), which requires attorneys to self-report any guilty plea or conviction of a crime, and Rule XI, § 11(b), which requires attorneys to self-report any disciplinary action taken by a court in a sister jurisdiction or any court in the District of Columbia other than the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Bar Counsel also has been receiving increased numbers of complaints from judges, magistrates, hearing officers, administrative law judges, and other court personnel pursuant to Rule 8.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 8.3, which aims to maintain the integrity of the profession, requires lawyers to report professional misconduct of other lawyers when their misconduct raises substantial questions about a lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness. Some of these complaints arise in situations in which no client complaint is filed or in which no actual client harm has occurred. They may involve abuses of the judicial process, rudeness or incivility in the courtroom, disobedience of court orders or direction, or even misrepresentations in open sessions or documents.

In addition, Rule XI, § 2(b), in defining misconduct that is grounds for discipline, specifically includes an act or omission by an attorney that violates the attorney’s oath of office or the applicable rules of professional conduct. This section specifies four situations that are grounds for discipline: (1) conviction of a crime, (2) discipline imposed in another jurisdiction, (3) failure to comply with any order of the D.C. Court of Appeals or the Board on Professional Responsibility as part of a disciplinary proceeding, and (4) failure to respond to a written inquiry from the court or the board in a disciplinary proceeding in the absence of a written assertion of the grounds for the refusal. In the case summaries this month, there are cases illustrating each of these specially enumerated situations, as well as a variety of cases involving serious violations of the rules and the attorney’s oath of office.

Bar Counsel reviews court decisions, media reports, and press accounts for evidence of attorney misconduct that may fit these four areas and others as well. We retrieve and review transcripts of court proceedings to determine if professional misconduct may have occurred. If so, we docket the matter for investigation. There is no such thing as an anonymous complaint. Either there is an actual complainant or Bar Counsel is the complainant. Also, significantly, there is no requirement that a complaint to Bar Counsel be under oath. In re Clarke, 684 A.2d 1276 (D.C. 1996) (letter from doctor’s attorney sufficient). Rather, under our process Bar Counsel verifies each petition pursuant to Rule XI, § 8(c), when a petition is filed initiating a formal disciplinary proceeding.

In addition to these passive sources of information, the Office of Bar Counsel initiates regular contact with our sister jurisdictions and seeks information available electronically from the Internet. The American Bar Association and other legal organizations have databases of lawyers who have been disciplined, and we periodically check those databases to determine if any members of our Bar have "forgotten" to tell us about discipline they received in another jurisdiction.

Many lawyers also neglect to pay their Bar dues on time and may be administratively suspended by the Bar for nonpayment of dues. This may seem like a minor administrative infraction, but the Bar reports lawyers who are suspended in this manner to Bar Counsel, and the administrative suspension is recorded in our records of discipline. Lawyers may not practice law while they are administratively suspended, and they may be subject to disciplinary action if caught. Paying Bar dues and keeping Bar membership records up-to-date are important responsibilities of each member of our Bar.

Although Bar Counsel casts large nets to catch lawyers engaging in professional misconduct, in reality the actual number of complaints that result in formal disciplinary action is not large. Of the approximately 1,450 complaints received each year, about a third are docketed for investigation and only about 40 of those are actually petitioned. But each petition generates considerable work for the disciplinary system and the lawyer accused. Being the subject of a complaint regardless of how minor is an unpleasant experience to be avoided.

Disciplinary Actions Taken by the Board on Professional Responsibility
In re Demetrios E. Anagnostiadis. May 26, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Anagnostiadis indefinitely, with the right to apply for reinstatement after he is reinstated in Maryland or after the expiration of five years, whichever occurs first, and with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement. Anagnostiadis consented to an indefinite suspension in Maryland while he was the subject of eight separate disciplinary matters charging him with misappropriation; commingling; engaging in a criminal act that reflects adversely on his fitness as a lawyer; engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; charging an unreasonable fee; incompetence; and failing to represent clients diligently, to communicate with clients, to explain matters to the extent required to permit clients to make informed decisions, to protect clients’ interests after termination of the representation, or to cooperate with a disciplinary authority.

In re Ruthann Aron. February 8, 2000. The board recommends that the court disbar Aron, nunc pro tunc to March 31, 1999, based upon her criminal conviction in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, of two counts of solicitation to commit murder in the first degree, crimes that the board concluded involve moral turpitude.

In re Chris H. Asher. June 19, 2000. The board recommends that the court disbar Asher, with the requirement that he make restitution with interest to clients prior to reinstatement. In connection with personal injury, criminal, and civil matters on behalf of four clients, Asher misappropriated entrusted funds; commingled entrusted funds with his own; failed to deposit entrusted funds into a properly designated trust account; engaged in criminal acts (theft, forgery, and fraud) that reflect adversely on his fitness as a lawyer; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and conduct that seriously interfered with the administration of justice; made material misrepresentations to courts; engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Maryland; directed a lawyer over whom he had supervisory authority to violate ethical rules; engaged in a conflict of interest in making unsolicited sexual advances toward a client; failed to represent clients diligently, to communicate with clients, to communicate a settlement offer to a client, or to provide written notice of the rate or basis of a fee or a written contingent fee agreement; intentionally failed to seek clients’ legal objectives; and intentionally prejudiced a client during the course of a representation.

In re Melvin C. Belli. June 30, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from California, the board recommends that the court suspend Belli for two years, nunc pro tunc to July 21, 1999, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement. The board also recommends that the court permit Belli to seek vacation of fitness requirement upon a showing that he has made restitution and been summarily reinstated in California; or if he is required to, and does, demonstrate fitness to practice in California, that he be summarily reinstated in this jurisdiction. Belli stipulated that he had negligently misappropriated funds entrusted to him on behalf of a family member. The California court suspended him for four years, stayed imposition of the sanction in favor of four years of probation with conditions and an actual suspension of one year (or until he makes restitution to the family member), and required him to demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement if his actual suspension exceeds two years.

In re Neal J. Berger. July 21, 2000. The board recommends that the court grant Berger’s petition for reinstatement. On September 16, 1999, the court suspended Berger for two years, nunc pro tunc to November 12, 1997, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement. The court’s decision was based upon a similar sanction imposed in New Jersey. The New Jersey court summarily reinstated Berger on December 21, 1999. The board recommends that the court vacate the fitness requirement in this jurisdiction in light of Berger’s summary reinstatement in New Jersey.

In re Gene G. Blades. July 20, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Blades indefinitely, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement, and with the right to seek reinstatement after he is reinstated in Maryland or after the expiration of five years, whichever occurs first. Blades admitted that he filed forged pleadings, forged affidavits, and a fictitious subpoena. He consented to an indefinite suspension in Maryland while he was the subject of a disciplinary proceeding charging him with incompetence; committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on his fitness as a lawyer; engaging in conduct involving dishonesty and fraud and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; violating the ethical rules; making a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter; and making false statement of material fact to a tribunal.

In re Charles H. Bowser. June 14, 2000. The board recommends that the court suspend Bowser for one year. Bowser failed to disclose (by leaving a question blank) on an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) application submitted on behalf of a client that the client previously had been arrested. When the application was rejected, he submitted a second application to a different INS office, stating specifically that the client had never been arrested. He was later convicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia of aiding and abetting the making of a false statement to a federal agency in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2. After the District of Columbia Court of Appeals temporarily suspended Bowser, pending the board’s decision on the final discipline to be imposed, he failed to withdraw from a representation that he had undertaken on behalf of a second client. A hearing committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility found that he had made a false statement of material fact to a tribunal; assisted a client in engaging in conduct that he knew was criminal; committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on his fitness as a lawyer; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and failed to withdraw from representation when to continue the representation would result in a violation of the ethical rules.

In re Erroll D. Brown. May 24, 2000. In a reinstatement matter, the board recommends that the court deny Brown’s petition for reinstatement. The court suspended him for 30 days on April 9, 1998, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law and pay restitution to the District of Columbia Superior Court prior to reinstatement. In connection with a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Brown for nine months, nunc pro tunc to April 19, 1999. In that matter, Brown failed to represent a client diligently, to provide adequate communication to a client, or to explain a matter sufficiently to permit the client to make informed decisions; assisted another attorney in the unauthorized practice of law; made false or misleading communications about his services on his letterhead; made false statements of material fact to a tribunal; failed to cooperate with the Maryland disciplinary authorities; and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

In re Cornell D. M. Judge Cornish. June 30, 2000. The board recommends that the court reinstate Cornish. On March 27, 1997, in a reciprocal matter from Maryland, where Cornish was placed on inactive status by consent based upon a claim of disability, the court suspended him indefinitely, nunc pro tunc to July 29, 1996, with leave to seek reinstatement after one year. Cornish has not been reinstated in Maryland.

In re David Olandan Davenport. July 20, 2000. The board recommends that the court suspend Davenport for six months for negligent misappropriation of entrusted funds and commingling entrusted funds with his own funds.

In re Samuel E. Dixon. May 26, 2000. The board recommends that the court disbar Dixon in connection with a reciprocal matter from Connecticut. Dixon misappropriated entrusted funds that he held on behalf of an estate, commingled estate funds with his own, took legal fees without prior authorization of the probate court, made false statements to heirs of the estate concerning the status of their inheritance, created a conflict of interest over funds in order to earn a fee, and handled a criminal matter for an heir without the requisite skill and knowledge. The Connecticut court suspended him for two years, with the requirement that he apply for readmission and, as a condition to consideration for readmission, take nine hours of continuing legal education in legal ethics, law office management, and accounting. The board declined to recommend a sanction identical to that imposed in the Connecticut matter, concluding that the appropriate sanction in this jurisdiction is disbarment. In a second Connecticut matter, Dixon failed to provide a written contingent fee agreement to a client or to hold settlement funds in trust pending resolution of a dispute between the client and predecessor counsel. The Connecticut court suspended him for nine months, to be served after completion of the two-year suspension in the first matter. The board recommends that the court defer consideration of this second reciprocal matter until Dixon seeks reinstatement to the bar.

In re Frank T. D’Onofrio Jr. June 15, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from New York, the board recommends that the court suspend D’Onofrio for two years, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement. The New York court suspended him for two years for engaging in conduct that reflects adversely on his fitness to practice law and conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation by converting to his own use funds that had been entrusted to him to pay a third party; failing to notify a third party of his receipt of funds in which the party had an interest or to turn over to the party funds that he was entitled to receive; and engaging in a conflict of interest.

In re Larry S. Greenberg. June 13, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court publicly censure Greenberg. He consented to a public reprimand, the functional equivalent in Maryland of a public censure in this jurisdiction, for neglect and failure to communicate with a client.

In re James M. Hanny. June 13, 2000. The board publicly reprimanded Hanny for failing to provide competent representation, to represent a client diligently, to act with reasonable promptness, or to keep a client reasonably informed regarding the status of a matter.

In re Michael V. Kuhn. May 24, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Kuhn for 30 days, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement, and with the right to seek summary reinstatement if he is summarily reinstated in Maryland. The board also recommends that the court impose a probationary period with a practice monitor following reinstatement, subject to modification at any reinstatement hearing. In custody and child support matters, Kuhn engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and failed to provide competent representation, to pursue a client’s legal objectives, to represent the client diligently, to communicate with the client regarding the status of the matter, or to cooperate with the disciplinary investigation.

In re Joseph T. Lilly. January 5, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Lilly for six months, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement. Lilly consented to an indefinite suspension in Maryland while disciplinary charges were pending against him alleging that, in connection with probate and personal injury matters, he made false statements of material fact in a disciplinary matter; engaged in the unauthorized practice of law while suspended; engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and failed to provide competent representation, to represent clients diligently or promptly, to communicate with clients regarding their matters, to explain matters sufficiently to enable clients to make informed decisions, to protect clients’ interests upon termination, to turn over to a third party funds that the party was entitled to receive, or to cooperate with the disciplinary authorities in the investigation of these matters. The board also recommends that the court require, as a further condition of reinstatement, that Lilly demonstrate that he has complied with a 1999 court order. In that matter, which originated in this jurisdiction, the court suspended Lilly for 30 days, with the requirement that he respond to Bar Counsel’s request for information prior to reinstatement.

In re Edward C. Massagli. July 20, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Massagli indefinitely, with the right to seek reinstatement after five years or after he is reinstated in Maryland, whichever occurs first, and with reinstatement conditioned upon the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law. The board also recommends that he be placed on probation under the supervision of a practice monitor for two years following reinstatement and that he complete 12 hours of continuing legal education in each of those years. Massagli consented to an indefinite suspension in Maryland while disciplinary charges were pending against him alleging that he failed to provide competent representation, to represent a client diligently, to communicate with the client, to terminate a representation when the representation would result in a violation of the ethical rules, or to refund an unearned fee.

In re Brett E. Murchison-Smith. July 21, 2000. The board recommends that the court suspend Murchison-Smith for six months, with the requirement that she make restitution to an estate prior to reinstatement. A hearing committee of the board found that Murchison-Smith engaged in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice in failing to comply with a probate court order directing her to repay fees that she had accepted without prior court approval, to respond to Bar Counsel’s written inquiries, or to comply with the board’s order compelling her response.

In re John T. Phillips II. July 12, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the board recommends that the court revoke Phillips’s license, with leave to seek reinstatement after five years or after reinstatement in Virginia, whichever occurs first. Phillips petitioned the Virginia court for leave to surrender his license to practice while he was the subject of an ethical complaint alleging that, while acting as executor of an estate, he commingled entrusted funds with his own, disobeyed an obligation under the rules of a tribunal, engaged in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice, and failed to maintain complete trust account records, to provide competent representation, or to represent a client diligently. Under Virginia law, an attorney who resigns while disciplinary charges are pending is deemed to have admitted those charges by virtue of the resignation. The resulting revocation of the attorney’s license constitutes discipline for which reciprocal discipline may be imposed in this jurisdiction.

In re Arnold B. Schweizer. June 19, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Schweizer for six months. Schweizer consented to a 60-day suspension in Maryland while disciplinary charges were pending against him charging him with negligent misappropriation of funds entrusted to him to pay costs and commingling entrusted funds with his own. The board declined to recommend a sanction identical to that imposed in Maryland, concluding that the appropriate sanction in this jurisdiction is a six-month suspension. Schweizer was reinstated in Maryland on October 18, 1999.

In re Tony O. Shaw. July 7, 2000. The board recommends that the court publicly censure Shaw for charging an unreasonable fee by taking a contingent fee for processing an uncontested personal injury protection claim, and for failing to notify a third party upon receipt of funds in which the party had an interest or to deliver the funds to the party promptly.

In re James M. Slattery. July 20, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Slattery indefinitely, with the right to apply for reinstatement after five years or after reinstatement in Maryland, whichever occurs first, and with reinstatement conditioned upon demonstration of fitness to practice law. The board also recommends that reinstatement be followed by a two-year period of probation under the supervision of a practice monitor. Slattery consented to an indefinite suspension in Maryland while disciplinary charges were pending against him charging him with engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and failing to represent a client diligently, to communicate with the client, to maintain records of entrusted funds, to account for entrusted funds from real estate settlements, or to cooperate with the Maryland disciplinary authorities.

In re Denise R. Stanley. July 12, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Stanley indefinitely, with the requirement that she demonstrate recovery from disability prior to reinstatement. The Maryland court placed Stanley on inactive status by consent, based upon a claim of disability, while disciplinary complaints were pending against her alleging failures to communicate with three clients.

In re Michael H. Stone. June 27, 2000. The board recommends that the court suspend Stone for four months, stay execution of all but two months of the suspension, and place him on unsupervised probation with conditions for one year. Stone admitted that, in connection with six criminal matters in which he was appointed appellate counsel, he engaged in conduct that seriously interfered with the administration of justice; and failed to provide competent representation, to serve clients with skill and care commensurate with that offered by other lawyers in similar matters, to represent clients diligently, to act with reasonable promptness, to keep clients reasonably informed about the status of their cases, to comply with requests for information, or to explain matters sufficiently to enable clients to make informed decisions.

In re Jeffrey C. Taylor. June 19, 2000. The board recommends that the court disbar Taylor based upon his criminal conviction in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, of two counts of theft, one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary, and one count of obstruction of justice, crimes involving moral turpitude per se.

In re Bryant A. Webb. July 7, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the board recommends that the court revoke Webb’s license to practice law, with the right to seek reinstatement, conditioned upon proof of his fitness to practice law, after the expiration of five years or after reinstatement in Virginia, whichever occurs first. Webb petitioned the Virginia court for leave to surrender his license while disciplinary charges were pending against him alleging that, in connection with a divorce matter, he failed to provide competent representation, to serve a client with the skill and care commensurate with that afforded clients by lawyers in similar matters, to represent a client diligently, to act with reasonable promptness, or to communicate with a client regarding the status of a matter. The Virginia court granted his petition and revoked his license. Under Virginia law, an attorney who resigns while disciplinary charges are pending against him is deemed to have admitted those charges by virtue of the resignation. The resulting revocation of the attorney’s license constitutes discipline for which reciprocal discipline may be imposed in this jurisdiction.

Disciplinary Actions Taken by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals
In re Douglas Abraham. March 2, 2000. The court disbarred Abraham on consent.

In re Frank K. Awuah. June 29, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the court suspended Awuah for 30 days, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement. The term of suspension is to be added to Awuah’s 60-day suspension, ordered by the court in 1999, from which he has not yet been reinstated. Awuah admitted in the Maryland proceeding that he had failed to provide competent representation, to keep clients informed about the status of their cases, to explain matters sufficiently to enable clients to make informed decisions, to provide a written fee agreement, or to respond to the Maryland disciplinary authority’s request for information.

In re James A. Bielec. June 15, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where Bielec consented to the striking of his name from the roll of attorneys eligible to practice, the court declined to impose reciprocal discipline in this jurisdiction. The court’s October 6, 1997, order, temporarily suspending Bielec pending determination of the final discipline to be imposed, no longer applies, given the court’s dismissal of this matter.

In re Paul C. Bland. April 27, 2000. In this reciprocal matter from Virginia, the court suspended Bland for 30 days. In an estate matter, Bland represented in pleadings filed in lower and appellate court proceedings that he represented heirs who had not retained him and gave to his client funds that a creditor of the estate had asked him to deliver to other heirs. In a domestic relations matter, Bland failed to attend promptly to matters undertaken for a client. The court accepted the board’s conclusion that, although reciprocal discipline is warranted, a 30-day suspension is the proper sanction in light of Bland’s disciplinary record in this jurisdiction.

In re Donald A. Doheny Jr. June 29, 2000. The court suspended Doheny indefinitely, based upon a claim of disability, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement.

In re Michael R. Gross. June 15, 2000. The court disbarred Gross based upon his consent to disbarment in Maryland.

In re Humberto Hernandez. June 8, 2000. The court disbarred Hernandez based upon his criminal conviction in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud, and making a false statement to a federally insured financial institution in order to secure mortgage financing, crimes involving moral turpitude per se. Hernandez was also convicted of accessory after the fact in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Dade County, Florida. The court deferred consideration of the facts underlying the second, unrelated conviction until such time as Hernandez seeks reinstatement to the Bar.

In re Alake Johnson-Ford. February 10, 2000. The court disbarred Johnson-Ford and ordered her to make restitution to several clients as a condition of reinstatement. In connection with five personal injury and immigration matters, Johnson-Ford misappropriated client funds; commingled entrusted funds with her own; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty and conduct that constitutes a criminal offense; and failed to deliver funds to a client promptly, to preserve disputed funds, to represent clients diligently, or to protect clients’ interests upon termination.

In re Francisco A. Laguna. April 27, 2000. The court disbarred Laguna, nunc pro tunc to April 20, 1995, based upon his conviction in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida of conspiracy to import cocaine and obstruction of justice. Laguna conspired with persons to import cocaine into the United States for a period of approximately four years and prepared and presented false exculpatory affidavits on behalf of another person, crimes involving moral turpitude per se.

In re Philip L. K. Lee. July 13, 2000. The court disbarred Lee, nunc pro tunc to May 26, 1998, based upon his conviction in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia of conspiring to engage in a monetary transaction in property believed to be the proceeds of illegal drug trafficking ("money-laundering"), a crime involving moral turpitude and that reflects adversely on his fitness as a lawyer.

In re Retna M. Pullings. June 8, 2000. The court disbarred Pullings on consent.

In re Steven Darrell Ruben. July 26, 2000. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the court disbarred Ruben. Ruben consented to disbarment in Maryland while disciplinary charges were pending against him alleging that he had mishandled funds belonging to clients and others.

In re David S. Sabghir. June 15, 2000. In this reciprocal matter from New York, the court disbarred Sabghir. The New York court found that Sabghir misappropriated funds; commingled his own funds with those of his client; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and conduct that reflects adversely on his fitness to practice law; accepted employment when his professional judgment might be affected by his own financial interests; and engaged in a conflict of interest.

In re John M. Spiridon. July 13, 2000. The court suspended Spiridon for one year, nunc pro tunc to November 22, 1996, with the requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law prior to reinstatement. Spiridon was convicted in the Circuit Court for Worcester County, Maryland, of misdemeanor theft of $18 in bus fares while employed as a bus driver. The court accepted the conclusion of the Board on Professional Responsibility, made after considering the facts and circumstances surrounding the crime, that, unlike most disciplinary cases involving theft, Spiridon’s crime did not involve moral turpitude and thus did not require disbarment pursuant to D.C. Code § 11-2503(a) (1995). Rather, because of the small amount of money that was involved, the fact that Spiridon was not a practicing attorney at the time, and evidence of his mental state, the board concluded that he had committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on his fitness as a lawyer.

In re Ronald E. Tucker. June 29, 2000. The court disbarred Tucker, nunc pro tunc to December 18, 1998, based upon his conviction in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia of one count of misdemeanor attempted bribery. On a number of occasions, Tucker bribed an employee of the District of Columbia Bureau of Traffic Adjudication to "fix" parking tickets for himself and others. The court accepted the Board on Professional Responsibility’s conclusion, made after considering the facts and circumstances surrounding the crime, that Tucker’s conduct warranted a finding of moral turpitude and disbarment pursuant to D.C. Code § 11-2503(a), because it involved intentional dishonesty for personal gain.

The Office of Bar Counsel compiled the foregoing summaries of disciplinary actions. Reports and recommendations issued by the Board on Professional Responsibility, as well as informal admonitions issued by the Office of Bar Counsel, are posted on the D.C. Bar Web site at www.dcbar.org. Court opinions are printed in the Atlantic Reporter and, for decisions issued since mid-1998, are also available online. To obtain a copy of a recent slip opinion, visit www.dccourts.gov/dccourts/appeals/opinions_mojs.jsp. Please note that in some cases Bar members may have the same name. To confirm the identity of individuals who have been subject to discipline, contact the D.C. Bar Member Service Center at 202-626-3475 or membership@dcbar.org.