Washington Lawyer

Bar Counsel: Avoiding Avoidance

From Washington Lawyer, October 2006

By Gene Shipp

barcounsel

Oh, the art of procrastination. I recently called the editor of this magazine and asked for an extra few days to write this column. He asked what the column was about and I told him: lawyer’s avoidance syndrome. He offered me a week.

Why is it that all attorneys seem to have at least one file or client matter that they are avoiding? Do they appreciate the harm this causes their clients and their own mental health? What can be done to identify the problem? How does one break the avoidance?

Let’s consider these issues.

Neglect is the number one complaint about attorney conduct received every year by the Office of Bar Counsel. It is always involved in at least 33 percent of our investigations.

We also know that comment 7 to Rule 1.3 (diligence and zeal) of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct states:

Perhaps no professional shortcoming is more widely resented by clients than procrastination. A client’s interests often can be adversely affected by the passage of time or the change of conditions; in extreme instances, as when a lawyer overlooks a statute of limitations, the client’s legal position may be destroyed. Even when the client’s interests are not affected in substance, however, unreasonable delay can cause a client needless anxiety and undermine confidence in the lawyer’s trustworthiness. Neglect of client matters is a serious violation of the obligation of diligence.

Clients come to attorneys or agencies because they need legal assistance. Their lawyer should be their champion in the legal battle or issue confronting them. Legal problems and issues are naturally coupled with anxiety. These clients deserve service, not anxiety, from their counsel.

We have all represented the client who makes us feel anxious and causes us to perspire whenever we have to call the client back. The signs are there. Avoidance has set in. This is also the beginning of a problem if it is not addressed immediately.

I have had the opportunity to watch attorney conduct for 25 years. On the basis of that experience, I can make the following observations:

The file an attorney is avoiding is usually directly behind the attorney’s chair or in the 180 degrees behind the work surface. (If the attorney has an alcohol or drug problem, the file could be anywhere.) The attorney does not want to let the file go because he or she is going to work on it—eventually.

A file is not like a fine wine; it will not improve with age.

The client knows the phone number of the Office of Bar Counsel.

Bar Counsel will not be interested in all the other good work an attorney is doing, just in the work done on a client’s complaint matter.

As an attorney, you are probably thinking, “But, Gene, how do I address this file?” I have the following suggestions:

1. Read it. Put the file in the middle of your desk. Go home for the evening and enjoy your time with family and friends. First thing in the morning, read every word in the file. You will discover either that you know what to do or that you don’t have a clue. If you don’t have a clue about what to do, you are the wrong attorney to be handling the matter. Learn what to do or, if permissible, withdraw from the representation. (Refund the fee!) It is better to have an initially unhappy client who has a chance to get an attorney who can handle the representation than to wind up with your name in the Atlantic Reporter (In re Gene Shipp) for all of your family and friends to read.

2. Lunch it. If you are a solo practitioner, as I was for many years, you need to go to lunch with an attorney who might hold the answer and discuss hypothetical fact patterns or legal issues. You would be surprised to learn how helpful a few minutes of talking can be.

3. Swap it. Swapping files is a very useful technique in our office, since telling the complainant to take his or her case to some other disciplinary agency is not a viable option. I will take a file I cannot figure out to another attorney and say, “I have a dog for you. Do you have a dog for me?” We read each other’s files and later meet to talk through the issues.

4. Have the administrative staff monitor your conduct. I know this sounds outlandish, but asking someone on staff to look out for you works. Encourage your staff to take the initiative and put a file in the center of your desk and say, “Don’t you mean to read this file?” This is a very good employee. The staff know what you are avoiding and can help. When they ask you about the file, bite your tongue before you start that I-am-the-lawyer speech. It will only make you feel bad, and hurts the people who are really trying to help you in your practice.

We are all human and have our own troubles at times. We all need support, even emotional support. Do not overextend. Do not avoid. It hurts your client, the Bar’s reputation, and you. Avoidance also affects your own mental health.

So turn around and grab that file you have been avoiding. And what should you put in its place? Gather up all the bad feelings that come with avoidance that you have been collecting over the past few months and toss them back there. I promise that you will never miss them.*

* If you feel the need to review disciplinary cases about avoidance and neglect, here are a few: In re Bernstein, 707 A.2d 371 (D.C. 1998) (30-day suspension for neglect in a personal injury matter); In re Lewis, 689 A.2d 561 (D.C. 1997) (30-day suspension for neglect in a criminal matter); In re Lyles, 680 A.2d 408 (D.C. 1996) (six-month suspension with fitness for neglect in a bankruptcy matter); In re Delate, 598 A.2d 154 (D.C. 1991) (two-year suspension with fitness for neglect in a conservatorship matter); In re Foster, 581 A.2d 389 (D.C. 1990) (30-day suspension for neglect in a family law matter).

Disciplinary Actions Taken by the Board on Professional Responsibility
Original Matters
In re John E. Anderson. Bar No. 420236. July 22, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility issued Anderson a board reprimand for his inappropriate handling of settlement funds and failure to communicate with his client, and refers him to the D.C. Bar’s Practice Management Advisory Service for a full evaluation of his maintenance of financial records and his prompt enrollment in the mandatory legal ethics course for new attorneys. Failure to comply within a reasonable period may be grounds for future disciplinary action. Anderson failed to notify and pay a third-party medical provider promptly from the proceeds of a settlement in 1997, and failed to deposit checks representing the settlement funds for this client into a properly labeled trust or escrow account. Three members of the board concurred and dissented in part, each writing separately. One board member concurred with the majority order and opinion with respect to its determination that Anderson’s conduct violated the rules found by the majority, but dissented from the legal conclusion that there was no dishonest conduct in violation of Rule 8.4(c), and from the recommendation that a board reprimand rather than a public censure by the court was warranted. A second board member concurred with the rule violations found by the board majority, but also dissented from the legal conclusion that there was no dishonesty in violation of Rule 8.4(c), and recommended a public censure. A third board member concurred with the board majority, except with respect to its conclusion that there was no dishonest conduct in violation of Rule 8.4(c). Rules 1.4(a), 1.4(b), 1.15(b), and 1.17(a).

In re Frederic M. Brandes. Bar No. 466789. July 25, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Brandes by consent.

In re Karen P. Cleaver-Bascombe. Bar No. 458922. July 21, 2006. In this supplemental report and recommendation issued after remand by the D.C. Court of Appeals, the board recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Cleaver-Bascombe for two years, with fitness. Cleaver-Bascombe submitted a false voucher to the court in support of her application for payment under the Criminal Justice Act, D.C. Code § 11-2601 et seq. (2001), for her representation of an indigent criminal defendant. Three members of the board dissented. Two of the three dissenting board members stated they would not make a finding that Cleaver-Bascombe testified falsely during the hearing in this matter, with willful intent to do so, and recommended a six-month suspension. The third board member, writing separately, dissented for the reasons set forth by Associate Judge Glickman in his dissenting opinion to the court’s remand order.

In re Samuel Cooper III. Bar No. 175745. July 31, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Cooper for 30 days and require, as a separate and independent condition to his reinstatement, that he comply in full with the order of the D.C. Court of Appeals enforcing Bar Counsel’s subpoena entered on October 15, 2003, and that he prove fitness. Cooper failed to respond to Bar Counsel’s lawful demand for information, engaged in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice, and failed to comply with a court order. Rules 8.1(b) and 8.4(d) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3).

In re Irwin Jay Fredman. Bar No. 392066. July 7, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Fredman by consent.

In re Robert W. Mance III. Bar No. 285379. July 28, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals issue Mance a public censure for commingling his own funds with his client’s and failing to take timely steps to protect the client’s interests by promptly returning the retainer. One member of the board concurred with the majority that a public censure was the most appropriate sanction to impose on Mance, but dissented with regard to its interpretation of Rule 1.15(d). Rules 1.15(a) and 1.16(d).

In re Bruce A. Pelkey. Bar No. 446164. July 31, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Pelkey for misconduct that arose out of business transactions between 1996 and 1999. Pelkey, who acted as legal counsel for business entities he created and operated with an individual he was romantically involved with, engaged in intentional misappropriation; failed to provide a prompt accounting; violated various rules pertaining to his conduct in court and arbitration proceedings; and committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects. Rules 1.15(a), 1.15(b), 3.1, 3.2(a), 3.3(a), 4.4, 8.4(b), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).

In re Alan S. Toppelberg. Bar No. 230185. July 21, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Toppelberg for 60 days, with 30 days suspended in favor of a period of probation of one year during which time Toppelberg shall meet with the D.C. Bar’s Practice Management Advisory Service (PMAS), implement its practice management recommendations, and submit to the board and Bar Counsel a compliance report, prepared and certified by Toppelberg and signed by a PMAS representative, that shall, at a minimum, detail the management reforms implemented and describe the purpose to be served by each. Toppelberg failed to disburse the proceeds from a settlement promptly to entitled third parties. For several years the third parties were misled by Toppelberg’s staff regarding the status of the settlement—a situation that was, in part, attributable to Toppelberg’s failure to maintain adequate trust account records and to render accounts final, which thereby led to the disposal of all monies held by him. In addition, Toppelberg’s delay in responding to Bar Counsel’s subpoenas and the order enforcing them revealed systemic problems with his trust account records. One member of the board concurred with the majority report and recommendation except with respect to its findings that Toppelberg did not violate Rule 1.3(b)(2) (intentional prejudice to a client). Rules 1.15(a), 1.15(b), 5.3, 8.1(b), and 8.4(d) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3).

In re Lenore D. Verra. Bar No. 455438. July 21, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Verra for reckless misappropriation, that the disbarment be stayed, and that she be suspended for 30 days for dishonest conduct, including conduct relating to Bar Counsel’s investigation. The board recommends that following the 30-day suspension Verra be placed on probation for three years, with the following conditions: (1) Verra will be under the care of a psychiatrist and will attend psychotherapy sessions with a mental health professional weekly, or as directed by the psychiatrist and/or mental health professional, and shall submit monthly reports for the psychiatrist or mental health professional regarding compliance with her treatment regimen to the board, with a copy to Bar Counsel; (2) Verra shall notify the board and Bar Counsel upon any change in employment at least 30 days before the effective date of such change; and (3) Vera shall notify the board and Bar Counsel in writing if she intends to handle entrusted funds, and no later than 30 days before the expected receipt of such funds, so that the board may consider the imposition of appropriate safeguards. If Verra violates any of the terms and conditions of the probation or the Rules of Professional Conduct, she shall be subject to revocation of probation with imposition of the underlying period of disbarment. The board found that Verra had provided sufficient evidence to warrant Kersey-style mitigation with regard to the misappropriation and related violations, but not with respect to the charges of dishonesty, including in connection with Bar Counsel’s investigation, which accounts for the period of actual suspension. Verra’s misconduct included misappropriation and commingling; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; failure to notify and deliver funds promptly to a third party (medical provider); failure to segregate entrusted funds; failure to keep and preserve records of entrusted funds; knowingly making a false statement in connection with a disciplinary matter and/or failing to respond to a Bar Counsel inquiry; knowingly inducing another to violate the rules or violating the rules through another; and failure to provide a retainer agreement to a client. Rules 1.5(b), 1.15(a), 1.15(b), 1.17(a), 8.1(a), 8.4(a), and 8.4(c).

In re N. F. Wiggins. Bar No. 194076. July 31, 2006. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Wiggins for 60 days, with 30 days stayed, and be placed on probation for one year, with the condition that he take and certify his completion of a continuing legal education course in legal ethics during the period of probation. The failure of Wiggins to file the required certification would subject him to the imposition of the underlying 30-day suspension. Wiggins advised another lawyer that she could conceal from that lawyer’s clients that their personal injury case had not been accepted for filing prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations and that she could pay the clients from her own funds and thus lead them to believe that the case had settled and that payment was from the defendant insurer. One member of the board wrote a separate concurring statement. Rules 1.1(a), 1.2(e), 8.4(a), and 8.4(c).

Reciprocal Matters
In re Mikre M. Ayele. Bar No. 411658. July 27, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Ayele for one year and one day, effective immediately, and that the discipline be subject to the conditions imposed on Ayele’s suspension by the Virginia rules of court. Ayele’s misconduct in Virginia arose out of his representation of two clients in immigration matters. In one matter Ayele failed to file a required document, resulting in a deportation order issued against his client. In that case Ayele filed a motion to reopen and representation was assumed by successor counsel. In a separate immigration matter, Ayele failed to file a docketing statement on time and, as a result, his client’s case was dismissed. Ayele was granted a motion to reopen and leave to file the docketing statement, but he later committed a briefing default, resulting in dismissal; failed to inform his client of the dismissal; and did not return his client’s telephone calls.

In re Paul C. Bland. Bar No. 232512. June 16, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose functionally identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Bland. The reciprocal discipline is based on three orders of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board, the last of which revoked Bland’s license to practice law in Virginia. The misconduct found in the three Virginia disciplinary proceedings on which this matter is based shows a pattern of client neglect and lack of competent representation on the part of Bland in eight separate client matters.

In re Michael W. Coopet. Bar No. 392884. June 8, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from California, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline in the form of a one-year suspension, stayed in favor of probation for two years and an actual suspension of a minimum of 60 days, subject to compliance with the order of restitution and the continuing legal education requirements imposed by the California court. The board recommends that Coopet’s suspension be effective immediately. The Supreme Court of California suspended Coopet on the basis of stipulated facts and conclusions of law agreed to by Coopet and the California State Bar. While retained to represent a client in an interpleader matter before the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, Coopet failed to provide competent representation; failed to return unearned fees; failed to render an accounting; failed to communicate with a client; violated other professional and business codes; and falsely held himself out as entitled to practice law while on inactive status.

In re Steven J. Dell. Bar No. 480800. July 31, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Florida, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals dismiss this matter. The Supreme Court of Florida admonished Dell for placing an advertisement in the Yellow Pages that did not comply with the rules regulating the Florida Bar.

In re John O. Iweanoge. Bar No. 439913. July 20, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose functionally identical reciprocal discipline. The board recommends that upon compliance with the conditions imposed by the Virginia court, Iweanoge receive a public censure from the court or, failing such compliance, be suspended by the court for 60 days. In Virginia an order of a three-judge court for Arlington County directed that Iweanoge receive a public reprimand upon compliance with requirements to read, and take a course on, the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct or, failing to comply with those obligations, be suspended for 60 days from the practice of law in Virginia. The Virginia court found by clear and convincing evidence that Iweanoge engaged in a pattern of conduct in which he authorized a nonlawyer employee to sign pleadings and endorse court orders.

In re Brian Shevlin. Bar No. 174102. July 27, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the Board on Professional Responsibility imposed identical reciprocal discipline and publicly admonished Shevlin. The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board issued Shevlin a public admonition for misconduct that arose out of his representation of a client in a medical malpractice case. The board concurred with the findings of the Virginia State Bar that Shevlin violated Rules 1.3(a), 1.15(c)(4), and 3.4(d) of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, which are substantially the same as their counterparts in the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.

In re Edward A. Slavin Jr. Bar No. 413136. June 16, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Tennessee, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Slavin for two years and that his reinstatement be conditioned upon his demonstrating, by clear and convincing evidence, that he has the moral qualifications, competency, and learning in law required for readmission, and that his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the Bar or to the administration of justice, or be subversive to the public interest. Slavin may file a petition for reinstatement after the expiration of one year of his suspension. Slavin’s misconduct arose from four proceedings in which he represented “whistleblower” clients. Slavin became the subject of numerous complaints lodged by judicial officers before whom he appeared in the late 1990s and in the first years after the turn of the century. The tenor of these complaints was that Slavin, in his conduct and speech during formal hearings and in his written filings in several courts and administrative tribunals, showed, as one U.S. District Court judge found, “a callous disregard for the proper and efficient functioning of the [tribunal] and a sense of disrespect for the authority of a judicial system.” In addition, four of his clients alleged that he had been “unprepared” and had “filed an appeal for one client even though he had been instructed not to, had given false information to a judge about a client’s health . . . and had refused to follow the clients’ directions regarding settlement.” The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld findings that Slavin “had failed to follow orders of the court” and “had made false statements” about a client’s illness and “with regard to a client’s identity as an investigator”; that his conduct had violated Tennessee disciplinary rules (which, among other things, prohibited conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and intentionally prejudicing or damaging the client during the course of the professional relationship); and that he had engaged in “undignified or discourteous conduct which is degrading to a tribunal.”

In re Mark O. Sobo. Bar No. 463902. June 2, 2006. 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 Sobo for 60 days, effective immediately. The Court of Appeals of Maryland suspended Sobo for 60 days by consent and required him to reimburse a former client $1,207. In the joint petition Sobo admitted that he violated Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct relating to competence, diligence, termination of representation, and fairness to opposing party and counsel, while retained to represent a client in a civil action for property damages, loss of income, and related expenses arising out of an automobile accident.

In re Martin S. Tanner. Bar No. 418351. July 18, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Utah, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose reciprocal discipline and suspend Tanner for five years with fitness. The Utah Supreme Court accepted Tanner’s resignation with discipline pending, with leave to apply for readmission to the Utah State Bar after five years. Tanner resigned in Utah in the face of allegations of making material misrepresentations to a court in connection with a divorce proceeding filed on behalf of a client.

In re Jesus R. Romo Vejar. Bar No. 416922. July 31, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Arizona, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose substantially different reciprocal discipline and suspend Vejar for six months. The Supreme Court of Arizona publicly censured Vejar for neglect, negligent misappropriation, commingling, and trust account violations stemming from his representation of a client in a personal injury case and his handling of the settlement proceeds. One member of the board dissented with regard to the issue of sanction.

In re Frank Denny Winston. Bar No. 97469. July 27, 2006. In three consolidated reciprocal discipline cases from California, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose functionally identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Winston for five years with fitness, effective immediately. The board decision is based on three separate orders of the Supreme Court of California: the first two suspending Winston for multiple instances of misconduct involving six different California Bar complaints, and the last accepting his voluntary resignation from the California Bar while additional disciplinary charges were pending against him.

Disciplinary Actions Taken by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Original Matters
In re J. Sinclair Long. Bar No. 433372. July 20, 2006. The D.C. Court of Appeals suspended Long for 30 days, stayed in favor of probation on the same terms and conditions as set forth in In re Boykins, 748 A.2d 413 (D.C. 2006) (one-year probation during which Long must comply with specific conditions), subject to such modification as may be mutually agreed between Long and Bar Counsel. Long violated Rules 1.1(a) and 1.1(b) by failing to evaluate the testator’s mental capacity or to conform to the standard of care used by other lawyers preparing wills for testators with questioned competency. In addition, Long violated Rules 1.7(b)(2) and 1.7(c) by failing to seek the testator’s waiver for a conflict of interest that resulted from Long’s drafting the will, which left the testator’s entire estate to her caregiver, another client whom Long had represented in a case brought by Adult Protective Services challenging his care of the testator and his management of her finances. Finally, Long failed to provide a writing setting forth the basis or rate of his fee for preparing a will, in violation of Rule 1.5(b).

In re Reginald J. Rogers. Bar No. 440390. June 22, 2006. The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Rogers and ordered that within 30 days he surrender any papers and property in his possession, custody, or control, to which his client in the underlying matter was entitled, and that his reinstatement be contingent on his having made full restitution to the client for all monies and assets that he misappropriated from her, with interest at the rate of 6 percent per annum on each diversion to his own use of such monies and assets, such interest accruing from the date of each diversion to the date of each corresponding repayment or return. Rogers, while retained by an elderly and infirm widow, engaged in intentional misappropriation of more than $260,000; committed theft; did not keep or maintain her complete financial records; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation; intentionally prejudiced and damaged his client; failed to act with reasonable promptness; failed to communicate the rate or basis of his fee in writing; and failed to take timely steps to protect his client’s interests upon termination of the representation. Rules 1.3(b)(2), 1.3(c), 1.4(a), 1.5(b), 1.15(a), 1.16(d), 8.4(b), and 8.4(c).

In re Bernard T. Thabault. Bar No. 376137. June 1, 2006. The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Thabault by consent.

Reciprocal Matters
In re Burman A. Berger. Bar No. 427495. July 6, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Berger, effective immediately. The Court of Appeals of Maryland disbarred Berger by consent for repeatedly neglecting his clients’ cases.

In re Patrick J. Blackburn. Bar No. 420702. July 6, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Alaska, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Blackburn. In Alaska, Blackburn was charged in a petition with, inter alia, multiple acts of neglect, dishonesty, and improper handling of client funds. He was disbarred by the Alaska Supreme Court.

In re Changhwun Cho. Bar No. 441701. June 22, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Cho. The Court of Appeals of Maryland disbarred Cho for abandoning his legal practice, intentionally misappropriating funds on three occasions, and committing multiple acts of neglect and failure to communicate with clients.

In re John R. Fuchs. Bar No. 411506. July 27, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from California, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and suspended Fuchs for one year, stayed in favor of two years’ unsupervised probation, and required him to submit proof that he has complied with all of the conditions of probation imposed by the State Bar of California. Fuchs was suspended by the California Supreme Court for ethical misconduct analogous to a violation of Rule 3.1 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct: “A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good-faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.”

In re Paul B. Klein. Bar No. 391816. July 20, 2006. In a reciprocal matter, the D.C. Court of Appeals publicly censured Klein, ruling that a public censure is the functional equivalent to a reprimand issued by the Court of Appeals of Maryland. In the Maryland matter Klein stipulated to misconduct relating to his failure to communicate with his client and adequately inform the client that referring the client’s personal injury case to another attorney would terminate Klein’s involvement in the case.

In re Charles E. Meaden. Bar No. 408267. July 13, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from New Jersey, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and suspended Meaden for three years, commencing from January 22, 2003, with a requirement that he prove fitness and that he has complied with the other conditions imposed by New Jersey, including specifically that he has completed a skills and methods course approved by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics within one year of his reinstatement. The Supreme Court of New Jersey suspended Meaden for committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Specifically, Meaden’s misconduct included stealing an individual’s credit card identity to purchase golf equipment, failing to report to the director of attorney ethics in writing his indictment for criminal attempt, and receiving stolen property, and in a separate instance failing to disclose his psychiatric history on a firearms application.

In re Robert L. Roth. Bar No. 357160. July 27, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Florida, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Roth, nunc pro tunc to May 13, 2004. On May 15, 1997, Roth received a public reprimand from the Supreme Court of Florida for violating the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, including engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. On July 11, 2002, the Supreme Court of Florida disbarred Roth for further violations, including intentional misappropriation of client funds and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

In re Mark O. Sobo. Bar No. 463902. July 27, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed functionally identical reciprocal discipline and suspended Sobo for 60 days. The Court of Appeals of Maryland suspended Sobo for disciplinary violations based on a joint petition for 60-day suspension by consent in which Sobo acknowledged violating Maryland rules pertaining to failure to provide competent representation; failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client; failure to protect a client’s interests following termination of representation; and failure to make reasonable, diligent efforts to comply with a legally proper discovery request by an opposing party. The Maryland court also directed Sobo to pay a former client the amount of $1,207 and pay administrative fees of $75.

In re N. Jerome Willingham. Bar No. 379780. June 8, 2006. In a reciprocal matter from North Carolina, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Willingham, effective immediately. Willingham was disbarred by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar following a series of charged ethical violations in that state, including engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation by misappropriating the funds of three clients; engaging in criminal conduct that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects by misappropriating the funds of three clients; paying one client with other clients’ funds despite a conflict of interest; failing to disburse funds as directed by three clients; failing to maintain a sufficient balance in his trust accounts; willfully and intentionally failing to comply with a demand for information by the disciplinary authority in North Carolina; and engaging in conduct amounting to contempt of the Grievance Committee of the North Carolina State Bar.

Informal Admonitions Issued by the Office of Bar Counsel
In re Steven D. DiLibero. Bar No. 460576. May 24, 2006. Bar Counsel issued DiLibero an informal admonition for failing to appear at an immigration court hearing, improperly advising his client not to appear for a hearing, filing an untimely motion, and failing to act with reasonable promptness, while retained to represent a client in an immigration matter. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.3(a), 1.3(c), and 1.4(b).

In re Maher Hanania. Bar No. 464766. June 16, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Hanania an informal admonition for failing to provide his client a writing setting forth the basis or rate of his legal fee. Rule 1.5(b).

In re Maher Hanania. Bar No. 464766. June 19, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Hanania an informal admonition for failing to file the appellant’s brief in a criminal matter for which he had been appointed appellate counsel, despite having been granted multiple extensions, resulting in conviction for contempt. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.3(a), and 8.4(d).

In re Vandy L. Jamison Jr. Bar No. 437771. June 30, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Jamison an informal admonition for failing to note his client’s trial date, to check the court jacket to make sure his praecipe was entered, to communicate with appointed defense counsel and the prosecutor, and to review discovery material in a timely fashion, while retained to represent a client in a criminal matter. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.3(a), and 1.3(c).

In re Gregory L. Lattimer. Bar No. 371926. May 25, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Lattimer an informal admonition for failing to safe-keep his client’s property; to deliver client funds promptly; to provide competent representation and serve a client with the skill and care commensurate with that generally afforded to clients by other lawyers in similar matters; and to provide the proper writing for a division of legal fees between two lawyers who are not in the same firm, while retained to represent the parent of two minor children in a civil action against the District of Columbia. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.5(e)(2), 1.15(a), and 1.15(b).

In re Allen J. Lowe. Bar No. 945584. May 5, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Lowe an informal admonition for failing to safeguard and turn over the client’s file promptly when the representation was terminated, while retained to represent a client in a workers’ compensation matter. Rules 1.15(a) and 1.16(d).

In re Marshall E. Rosenberg. Bar No. 440649. June 19, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Rosenberg an informal admonition. Rosenberg, while retained in a patent matter, failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of the matter. Rosenberg also failed to comply in a timely manner with a board order compelling his response to the underlying ethical complaint. Rules 1.4(a) and 8.4(d).

In re Malik Z. Shabazz. Bar No. 458434. May 25, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Shabazz an informal admonition for failing to safe-keep his client’s property; knowingly assisting another to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct; failing to provide competent representation and serve a client with the skill and care commensurate with that generally afforded to clients by other lawyers in similar matters; and failing to provide the proper writing for a division of legal fees between two lawyers who are not in the same firm, while retained by the parent to represent the interests of two minor children in a civil action against the District of Columbia. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b) 1.5(e)(2), 1.15(a), and 8.4(a).

In re Gilda Sherrod-Ali. Bar No. 415526. June 19, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Sherrod-Ali an informal admonition for failing to provide competent representation; failing to serve a client with the skill and care commensurate with that generally afforded to clients by other lawyers in similar matters; failing to represent a client zealously and diligently within the bounds of the law; and engaging in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice, when she willfully disobeyed three court orders directing her to perfect an appeal. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.3(a), and 8.4(d).

In re James W. Taglieri. Bar No. 229880. May 25, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Taglieri an informal admonition for failing to provide adequate notice of his withdrawal as counsel or to protect the client’s interests, while retained to represent a client in a medical malpractice matter. Rule 1.16(d).

In re Bruce A. Tassan. Bar No. 387518. June 30, 2006. Bar Counsel issued Tassan an informal admonition for engaging in improper ex parte communications with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) on several occasions and failing to comply with an order of the TTAB, while retained to represent a client in connection with an application to register a trademark. Rules 3.5(b) and 8.4(d).

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’s Web site at www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/ethics/discipline/index.cfm. 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.dcappeals.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 memberservices@dcbar.org.