Bar Counsel: A Change in the Team Roster
From Washington Lawyer, October 2003
By Joyce E. Peters
Costello: Now look, I’m the head of the sports department. I gotta know the baseball players’ names. . . .
Abbott: Well, I’ll introduce you. . . . We have on the bags—we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know’s on third.
Costello: That’s what I wanna find out.
Abbott: I say Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know’s on third—
Costello: You know the . . . names?
—Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?”
This old Abbott and Costello routine comes to mind this time of year as the District of Columbia Bar and its committees change their membership and as a new term begins for the Board on Professional Responsibility. We also have numerous disciplinary summaries to report this month as the board ends its 2002–2003 year, so I have chosen to keep this column short. Since we have a change in the lineup on the board, I also thought I would take this opportunity to thank a couple of retiring major league players, greet the new team members, and review the lineup.
Joanne Doddy Fort and Paul L. Knight have both completed 12 years of dedicated service to the disciplinary system. They have contributed immeasurably both on hearing committees and the board, and they have volunteered countless hours to serve the Bar and the Court of Appeals. Their expertise and wise counsel will be missed.
Joanne, the departing chair of the board, is well known to the Bar and currently in private practice. Joanne spent two terms on hearing committees and two terms on the board, serving as chair of the board since 2001. She also has seen a tour of duty on the Committee on Admissions, serving as its chair, and assisted as cochair on the Bar’s Task Force on Civility in the Profession.
Paul, a departing member of the board, likewise served two terms on hearing committees and two terms on the board. A white-collar crime litigator who was formerly a prosecutor with the Office of the United States Attorney, Paul has cochaired the Criminal Practice Institute and lectured widely on various continuing legal education topics.
Joining the board will be Shirley M. Williams and Frank H. Wu. Shirley manages the pro bono project of the Legal Counsel for the Elderly in Washington, D.C. She received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her juris doctor degree from Antioch School of Law. Shirley has served two terms on the hearing committees, including past service as a hearing committee chair, as well as two terms with the Clients’ Security Fund, including service as its vice chair.
Frank, a professor at Howard University School of Law, received a bachelor of arts degree from Johns Hopkins University and his juris doctor from the University of Michigan Law School. He has served two terms on the hearing committees, including most recently as a hearing committee chair.
Frank and Shirley have also served on numerous boards and civic committees. We welcome them to the board. Although they are the board’s newest members, neither of them is a rookie to the disciplinary system.
The rest of the board’s lineup is as follows:
Timothy J. Bloomfield, the new chair, is currently a litigation partner at Holland & Knight LLP. Tim was recently elevated from vice chair by the court. He is also general counsel and a member of the executive committee of the Washington Performing Arts Society.
Martin R. Baach, the new vice chair, is currently a partner at Baach Robinson & Lewis PLLC, where he has an international commercial practice. Marty is also on the board of directors of K.E.E.N. (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now).
Elizabeth B. Frazier, public member, currently serves as executive director of the George Preston Marshall Foundation. Barrie is a past president and chair of the capital campaign steering committee for the Friends of the National Zoo.
Roger A. Klein is a partner at Howrey Simon Arnold & White, LLP, where he chairs the corporate/transactional practice group. Roger is also a director of the Frederick B. Abramson Memorial Foundation.
Kay T. Payne, public member, currently serves as project director and coordinator of grants management and development at Howard University, School of Communications. Kay has done substantial work and authored numerous articles in the fields of English as a second language and juvenile communication.
Maria Holleran Rivera currently serves as deputy director of the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy. Maria also serves as a volunteer at the PBS radio station WAMU 88.5 FM, where she was named volunteer of the year for 2000.
Paul R. Q. Wolfson, recently of the Justice Department’s Office of the Solicitor General, where he represented the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court, is currently counsel at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Paul is also an opera expert and patron.
The board began its 2003–2004 season in August. As you will see by the disciplinary summaries, the 2002–2003 board resolved numerous complex cases. With the new board’s lineup, this year’s team will be experienced, and this year’s cases promise to be demanding. So now you know the team lineup for the 2003–2004 Board on Professional Responsibility.
Disciplinary Actions Taken by the Board on Professional Responsibility
IN RE PHYLLIS M. AIN. Bar No. 312199. July 2, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Colorado, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Ain. In Colorado Ain was charged with violations of more that 25 rules of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct (CRPC) in four separate matters. The charges included neglect (CRPC 1.3); failure to expedite litigation (CRPC 3.2); failure to keep her clients informed of the status of their case (CRPC 1.4(a)); conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation (CRPC 8.4(c)); knowingly converting client’s funds by keeping unearned client’s funds for an extended period of time (CRPC 8.4(c)); failing to give competent advice to her client (CRPC 1.1); knowingly disobeying an obligation of the rules of a tribunal (CRPC 3.4(c)); and failing to return her clients’ file upon termination of the representation (CRPC 1.16(d)). In addition, Ain was found to have violated CRPC 1.15(a) by placing her clients’ cost retainer in her operating account and commingling, and CRPC 7.3(a), Colorado’s restriction on solicitation of professional employment; and to have abandoned her client under Colorado case law. Finally, Ain was found to have violated CRPC 1.15(b) by failing to provide an accounting when her client requested one. The Colorado court disbarred Ain and ordered her to establish her compliance with all prior court orders in a lawsuit filed against her and to pay restitution totaling $8,026.96 plus interest to three separate former clients as conditions of reinstatement.
IN RE BRADFORD J. BARNEYS. Bar No. 440281. July 30, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Barneys. The Maryland court disbarred Barneys for engaging in the practice of law in Maryland without being admitted to the Maryland Bar and, while Barneys’s Maryland Bar application was pending, entering his appearance as counsel and otherwise representing clients in at least five cases in the District Court of Maryland. Barneys violated Maryland Rule 16-701(k); Maryland Code, Business Occupations and Professions Article §§ 10-601 and 10-602; and Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct 4.1, 5.5(a), 7.5(a), (b), and (d), 8.1(a), and 8.4(b), (c), and (d).
IN RE MARGARET A. BELLER. Bar No. 703. July 29, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Beller for 120 days, with reinstatement conditioned upon her full compliance with Bar Counsel’s requests for information in the underlying proceedings, and further conditioned upon Beller’s showing her fitness to practice law. Beller failed to respond to Bar Counsel’s inquiries and failed to obey board orders in relation to three separate ethical investigations in violation of Rules 8.1(b) and 8.4(d) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3).
IN RE TIMOTHY BROWN. Bar No. 366743. July 31, 2003. The board recommends that the court grant Brown’s petition for reinstatement from a disability suspension with the following conditions: (1) Brown continues with his consultation with the District of Columbia Bar’s Lawyer Counseling Program and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous for a period of at least three years after reinstatement, with semiannual reports to Bar Counsel and the board; (2) Brown is under the supervision of and meets at least four times with a financial monitor to be appointed by the board for one year following his reinstatement, with quarterly reports to the board and Bar Counsel; and (3) Brown provides written certification that he has completed within one year of reinstatement a series of D.C. Bar continuing legal education courses. The board also recommends that four disciplinary matters held in abeyance during the period of Brown’s disability suspension be reactivated.
IN RE WILLIAM H. BUTTERFIELD. Bar No. 1727. June 10, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Butterfield for 30 days for refusing to acknowledge and resolve a conflict of interest requiring waivers from affected clients and proceeding to represent a new client in a matter in which its interests were adverse to the interests of an existing law firm client. The board chair, writing on behalf of herself and another board member, concurred in the board’s findings of fact and conclusions of law but dissented from the board’s sanction recommendation, stating that a 60-day suspension with four hours of continuing legal education in the area of ethics and professional responsibility was the appropriate sanction. The board found that Butterfield violated Rules 1.7(b)(1) and (2) and 1.10(a).
IN RE BETH A. CARPENTER. Bar No. 438529. July 25, 2003. The board recommends that the court disbar Carpenter. Carpenter was convicted in the Connecticut Superior Court of murder for pecuniary gain, accessory to murder, and conspiracy to commit murder, crimes that involve moral turpitude per se for which disbarment is mandated by D.C. Code § 11-2503(a) (2001).
IN RE ROZAN E. CATER. Bar No. 420942. June 26, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Cater for 90 days, with her reinstatement conditioned upon both her full compliance with Bar Counsel’s outstanding requests for information and her proof of fitness to practice law, pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 16. This case involved four consolidated matters. In three matters the board found that Cater failed to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority, seriously interfered with the administration of justice, and failed to comply with an order of the board in violation of Rules 8.1(b) and 8.4(d) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3). The board’s majority found no violation in the fourth matter charging that Cater had violated Rules 1.1(a) and 5.3(b) by negligently failing to supervise a nonlawyer employee who stole over $42,000 from two estates for which Cater had been appointed guardian and conservator. The board’s chair and another board member concurred with the board’s findings regarding the three failure-to-cooperate matters but dissented in part with the board’s failure to find a violation of Rule 5.3(b) and with the recommended sanction. Two other board members dissented with regard to the board’s failure to find a Rule 5.3(b) violation and with the recommended sanction, stating that Cater failed to adequately supervise the work of a nonlawyer employee in violation of Rule 5.3(b). The dissenting members would have recommended a 180-day suspension plus fitness and compliance with Bar Counsel’s request for information for the violations of Rule 5.3(b) and the other violations found by the majority of the board.
IN RE THEODORA A. CHARLES. Bar No. 411049. July 30, 2003. In consideration of two consolidated matters, the board recommends that the court suspend Charles for 30 days, with her reinstatement conditioned upon her showing fitness to practice law and her responding to Bar Counsel’s inquiries in one matter. In the first matter Charles failed to prepare for trial, move promptly for a desirable continuance, or appear in court at the scheduled time, resulting in the dismissal of her client’s case with prejudice, in violation of Rules 1.1(a) and 1.3(a) and (c). In addition, Charles revealed the weakness of her client’s case in a memorandum to the court in violation of Rule 1.6(a)(1). She also was unprepared to try her client’s case, failed to appear for an afternoon trial call, and failed to pursue the appeal of her client’s matter in violation of Rule 8.4(d). In the second matter Charles failed to respond to Bar Counsel’s repeated inquiries and to a board order compelling a response, in violation of Rules 8.1(b) and 8.4(d) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3).
IN RE GEORGE EDELSTEIN. Bar No. 77966. June 30, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Edelstein. The U.S. District Court disbarred Edelstein for conduct relating to a series of loans he made to a client (an FBI informant), accepting employment while the client was indebted to him and Edelstein’s judgment may have been affected by his financial interests, and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice by participating in an attempted sale of information to an informant concerning the whereabouts of another fugitive client, all in violation of the New York Lawyers’ Code of Professional Responsibility, Rules 1-102(A)(5), 5-101(A), and 5-103(B).
IN RE LUCY R. EDWARDS. Bar No. 197020. July 2, 2003. On remand the board concluded that Edwards’s misappropriation of funds belonging to one client was not reckless and recommends that the court suspend Edwards for six months, and order her to certify that she has attended three hours of continuing legal education courses on the proper handling of entrusted funds before resuming the practice of law.
IN RE ELMER D. ELLIS. Bar No. 423276. July 17, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the board recommends that the court impose nonidentical reciprocal discipline and suspend Ellis for 30 days, subject to a 14-day credit for time suspended after he filed the affidavit required by D.C. Bar R. XI, § 14(g). The Circuit Court, which originally suspended Ellis indefinitely, lifted its suspension order and prohibited Ellis from practicing law there until he proved that he was in good standing with the District of Columbia Bar. Ellis failed to file a timely appellate brief on behalf of his client and failed to respond to subsequent notices to file the brief in violation of the standards of conduct expected of an attorney practicing before the Circuit Court. The board analogized the Circuit Court’s findings to violations of D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1(a) and (b), 1.3, and 8.4(d).
IN RE GREG S. FRIEDMAN. Bar No. 926345. June 25, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court impose identical discipline and suspend Friedman for six months. Friedman admitted in a joint petition filed in Maryland that he had made a false statement to the Maryland Circuit Court, opposing counsel, and Bar Counsel regarding issuance of a subpoena to shield his client. One member of the board dissented, recommending a 30-day suspension.
IN RE JEFFREY C. HINES. Bar No. 233239. June 26, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court suspend Hines for six months, nunc pro tunc to November 16, 2001, the effective date of the Maryland suspension, with his reinstatement conditioned on his proof of fitness on the condition that he file with the court notarized copies of the Goldberg and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 14(g), affidavits. If readmitted to the Maryland Bar by its summary procedure, Hines may move to vacate the fitness requirement pursuant to Board Rule 8.7. The Maryland court indefinitely suspended Hines from the practice of law, with the right to apply for readmission six months after the date of the suspension. The Maryland court found that Hines engaged in multiple conflicts of interest, in violation of Maryland Rule of Professional Conduct (MRPC) 1.7, by serving both as an attorney, director, and principal of a corporation and as counsel for his wife in connection with her loans to that corporation and her collection efforts on those loans. In addition, the Maryland court found that Hines failed to properly supervise employees of his firm in violation of MRPC 5.1(c).
IN RE BILLY W. KING. Bar No. 370758. June 24, 2003. The board recommends that King be suspended for nine months for negligent misappropriation, with the proviso that if King accepts the board’s probationary terms, three months of that suspension be stayed in favor of one year of probation during which King will be supervised by a practice monitor. King also must complete 12 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) in law office management before the period of probation will take effect. If King does not submit proof of his completion of the CLE before the end of the six-month suspension, he will be required to serve the remaining three-month suspension and to submit proof of completion of the CLE as a condition reinstatement. King violated Rule 1.15(a) by failing to pay a third-party medical provider from settlement funds and spending those funds for his own purposes; Rule 1.15(a) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 19(f), by failing to maintain complete records of the settlement funds held in trust; Rule 1.15(b) by failing to notify and pay promptly the third-party medical provider; and Rule 1.17(a) by failing to deposit trust funds into a properly designated trust account.
IN RE DAVID R. KING. Bar No. 227470. July 17, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Utah, the board recommends that the court impose functionally identical discipline and publicly censure King. The Utah court publicly reprimanded King by consent for failing to abide by his client’s decisions concerning the representation, to consult with his client regarding the objectives of the representation, to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, to respond promptly to his client’s requests for information, and to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to enable his client to make informed decisions regarding the representation; and for committing professional misconduct by violating or attempting to violate the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. King specifically admitted that he violated Utah Rules 1.2(a), 1.4(a) and (b), and 8.4(a).
IN RE CHARLES E. MEADEN. Bar No. 408267. July 23, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from New Jersey, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Meaden for three years, with his reinstatement conditioned on his proof of fitness to practice law and compliance with other conditions of the New Jersey disciplinary sanction, including completion of a skills and methods course within one year of his reinstatement. This reciprocal proceeding consolidated two matters in which Meaden was disciplined in New Jersey. In the first matter the New Jersey court reprimanded Meaden for improper client solicitation in violation of Rules 7.3(b)(1) and (4) of the New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct (NJRPC). Although the board concluded that the violation of NJRPC 7.3(b)(4) would not be misconduct in the District of Columbia, it found that the NJRPC 7.3(b)(1) violation would be misconduct in the District of Columbia and would support the imposition of reciprocal discipline. In a second matter Meaden was suspended for a period of three years, with his reinstatement conditioned upon his showing that he is fit to practice law in New Jersey, for committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in violation of NJRPC 8.4(b) and for dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in violation of NJRPC 8.4(c). Meaden stole credit card information belonging to a person unknown to him and used it to place an order for commercial goods under a fictitious name.
IN RE ERIC N. MILLER. Bar No. 384784. June 26, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Miller for 30 days, with reinstatement conditioned on his response to the board’s order to respond to Bar Counsel’s request for a response to the disciplinary complaint and his completion of 12 hours of continuing legal education in the areas of ethics and professional responsibility. Miller failed to respond on three occasions to Bar Counsel’s requests for a response to a single disciplinary complaint and to an order of the board compelling him to respond in violation of Rules 8.1(b) and 8.4(d) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3). Two board members dissented to the board’s decision not to recommend a fitness requirement in this matter as a condition of reinstatement.
IN RE WILLIAM D. PATKUS. Bar No. 955583. July 30, 2003. The board recommends that the court deny Patkus’s petition for reinstatement.
IN RE BILLY L. PONDS. Bar No. 379883. July 31, 2003. The board requests briefs from the parties on the issue of sanction based on its finding that in a criminal matter Ponds violated two Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) by having a conflict of interest in violation of MRPC 1.7(b) and failing to withdraw in violation of MRPC 1.16(a)(1) during the representation of a criminal defendant.
IN RE JAMES S. POWELL. Bar No. 427084. July 11, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Powell for 30 days based upon his criminal conviction in Norfolk, Virginia, of the misdemeanor offense of drawing a check of less than $200 on insufficient funds with intent to defraud, in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-181. The board found that Powell violated Rules 8.4(b) and (c), which were equivalent to Virginia’s DR 1-102(A)(3) and DR 1-102(A)(4), in effect at the time of his criminal conduct. The board recommended that a Virginia reciprocal matter based on the same conduct be dismissed.
IN RE VAN S. POWERS. Bar No. 194258. June 30, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and indefinitely suspend Powers from the practice of law, with the right to apply for reinstatement after five years or upon reinstatement in Maryland, whichever occurs first. The Maryland Court of Appeals indefinitely suspended Powers based on a joint petition by consent, which stated that there were pending complaints against Powers involving lack of competence, diligence, communication, failure to maintain an interest-bearing escrow account, failure to maintain complete and accurate records of client funds, failure to account for client funds, conflict of interest and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.7(b), 1.15, and 8.4(d), as well as Maryland Rules 16-604, 16-606, 16-607, and 16-609 and Maryland Code, Business Occupations and Professions Article §§ 10-303, 10-304, and 10-306. In Maryland, Powers agreed to conditions of reinstatement that included (1) attorney and accountant monitors for three years; (2) the successful completion of a course on the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct or other legal ethics course at an accredited law school; (3) participation in 12 hours of continuing legal education in each of the first two years after reinstatement; and (4) payment of $869.75 in costs associated with the Maryland disciplinary investigation.
IN RE JAMES T. REILLY. Bar No. 50476. July 17, 2003. The board directed Bar Counsel to issue Reilly an informal admonition for violating Rule 1.8(a) by failing to obtain his client’s written consent before entering into a business transaction that gave him a pecuniary interest adverse to his client.
IN RE KEVIN M. SABO. Bar No. 435676. June 12, 2003. The board recommends that the court disbar Sabo by consent.
IN RE SOL SHEINBEIN. Bar No. 88369. July 31, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Sheinbein. The Maryland court disbarred Sheinbein for committing criminal acts, that is, obstruction of justice or hindering a police officer, which permitted a prime suspect to escape prosecution, in violation of Maryland Rule of Professional Conduct (MRPC) 8.4(b); and committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of MRPC 8.4(d). Sheinbein, who had knowledge to believe his son was a homicide suspect, aided his son in fleeing from Maryland and leaving the United States, thereby interfering with the natural progression of the criminal justice system. One member of the board who concurred in the board’s conclusion with regard to the Rule 8.4(b) violation (i.e., accepting the Maryland court’s conclusion that Sheinbein’s conduct would have constituted the Maryland common law offense of obstructing or hindering a police officer) and the board’s recommendation of disbarment, dissented with regard to the 8.4(d) violation.
IN RE SCOTT SLAUGHTER. Bar No. 273334. July 24, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Slaughter for three years, with his reinstatement conditioned upon a showing of his fitness to practice law. Slaughter violated Rules 8.4(b) and (c) when he forged a state official’s name to a contingency fee agreement, altered his firm’s copy of court filings to erroneously indicate that he represented the state of Arkansas, made continual misrepresentations as to the scope of his representation of the state of Arkansas, and reported billable time to his firm for work done on behalf of the state of Arkansas when he knew it was not a client.
IN RE JULIA A. SOININEN. Bar No. 448700. July 25, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Soininen for six months, nunc pro tunc to the date she filed a Goldberg affidavit claiming she had voluntarily ceased practicing. The board found that Soininen had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and dishonesty by practicing before the immigration courts while on interim suspension by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and falsely representing she was a member in good standing of the D.C. Bar. The board found that Soininen violated Rules 3.3(a)(1), 5.5(a), and 8.4(c) and (d).
IN RE BENJAMIN M. SOTO. Bar No. 453728. July 17, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court publicly censure Soto. The Maryland court reprimanded Soto by consent for unauthorized practice of law in Maryland in violation of Maryland Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5(a) and Maryland Code, Business Occupations and Professions Article § 10-601(a). The Maryland court ordered that Soto’s reprimand not be published in the Maryland Reports, Maryland Reporter, or Atlantic Reporter, Second Series, although the reprimand was subject to public disclosure. Soto, who is not admitted to practice law in Maryland, was subject to the disciplinary authority of the Maryland court pursuant to Rule 8.5(b) of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct and Maryland Rule 16-701(a). The board found that Soto’s unauthorized practice in Maryland also violated Rule 5.5(a). In recognition that the District of Columbia does not permit private discipline, the board recommended the functional equivalent, a public censure.
IN RE NATHANIEL H. SPEIGHTS. Bar No. 952036. July 18, 2003. The board ordered Bar Counsel’s petition against Speights dismissed.
IN RE HARRY T. SPIKES. Bar No. 372091. July 30, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Spikes for 30 days. The board found that Spikes violated Rule 3.1 by filing nonmeritorious actions against attorneys who filed a complaint against him with the Office of Bar Counsel and who were immune from suit pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 19(a), and that Spikes engaged in conduct that seriously interfered with the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d).
IN RE RICHARD C. SPITZER. Bar No. 185819. July 25, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court impose nonidentical reciprocal discipline and suspend Spitzer for 30 days, with his reinstatement conditioned upon his showing fitness to practice law. The Maryland Court of Appeals, after concluding that Spitzer abandoned his clients without returning their unearned advance fee and failed to respond to Maryland Bar Counsel’s investigation, ordered that he be disbarred for violating Maryland Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.16(d), 8.1(b), and 8.4(d). In recommending the reciprocal sanction, the board did not reach the issue as to whether Spitzer, who failed to respond to Maryland Bar Counsel’s investigation, violated Rules 8.1(b) and 8.4(d).
IN RE JOHN STANTON. Bar No. 168997. July 23, 2003. The board recommends that the court deny Stanton’s petition for reinstatement.
IN RE ERIC STEELE. Bar No. 410226. July 31, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Steele for three years, with reinstatement conditioned upon his showing fitness to practice law and his making restitution in the amount of $2,250 with interest to one client. In four separately docketed matters Steele was found to have violated 13 different rule provisions, for a total of 26 violations. In three separate employment matters Steele failed to represent his clients zealously, to seek his clients’ lawful objectives, to expedite their litigation, to keep them reasonably informed about the status of their matters, to explain matters to the extent reasonably necessary to permit them to make informed decisions regarding their representations, and to protect his clients’ interests after termination of their representation. Steele also misrepresented the status of a motion to one of his clients. In a fourth employment matter Steele intentionally prejudiced and damaged his client during the course of the representation, knowingly made a false statement of material fact to a tribunal, engaged in conduct that seriously interfered with the administration of justice, knowingly made a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter, and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation. The board found that Steele violated Rules 1.3(a), (b)(1) and (2), and (c); 1.4(a), (b), and (c); 1.16(d); 3.3(a)(1); 3.4(c); 8.1(a); and 8.4(c) and (d).
IN RE ANDREW M. STEINBERG. Bar No. 350983. July 30, 2003. The board recommends that the court suspend Steinberg for 60 days for failure to cooperate with two Bar Counsel investigations in violation of Rules 8.1(b) and 8.4(a) and failure to respond to a board order in violation of D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3). For nearly 10 months Steinberg failed to respond to Bar Counsel’s request for an answer to a disciplinary complaint filed against him and to a board order compelling his response, even though he was served personally with each document and was warned that he could be charged with a disciplinary violation for his failure to cooperate.
IN RE ABDOULAI A. SWAREH. Bar No. 442216. June 24, 2003. The board recommends that the court disbar Swareh by consent.
IN RE JONATHAN T. ZACKEY. Bar No. 943134. June 30, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Washington State, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Zackey, with the condition that he comply with the Washington Supreme Court’s restitution order as a condition of reinstatement. The Washington Supreme Court found that Zackey committed multiple violations of the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct involving multiple clients, including intentional misappropriation of client funds on five separate occasions involving five different clients, failure to provide accountings of funds held in trust in two separate matters, and engaging in numerous acts of dishonesty.
IN RE JOEL CHASNOFF. Bar No. 22673. June 12, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the court suspended Chasnoff for 90 days, with his reinstatement conditioned on proof of his fitness to practice law. The Maryland court indefinitely suspended Chasnoff for misconduct involving three clients, that is, failing to act with competence, failing to act with diligence, failing to communicate with his clients, charging an excessive fee, and failing to respond to disciplinary authorities.
IN RE G. RICO MCGOWAN. Bar No. 454554. June 5, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the court imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred McGowan. The Maryland court disbarred McGowan for misappropriation and other ethical violations that occurred in his handling of several real estate settlements. Specifically, the Maryland court found that McGowan failed to record deeds of trust, failed
to account for closing costs and fees entrusted to him, and issued title insurance binders without authority to do so.
IN RE HORACE H. PÉREZ. Bar No. 140467. July 10, 2003. The court suspended Pérez for 60 days, with his reinstatement conditioned on proof of his fitness to practice law, and ordered Pérez to make restitution to his client in the amount of $350 with interest. Pérez engaged in protracted neglect and intentional conduct with respect to immigration matters that resulted in prejudice and damage to a vulnerable client.
IN RE MICHAEL A. ROMANSKY. Bar No. 942169. June 5, 2003. The court found that Romansky violated Rule 8.4(c) when he directed an associate attorney in his firm to charge time spent working on a matter for Romansky’s father to another firm client who paid a fixed annual retainer for legal services. The court stated that although there was no financial impact to either the firm or the client, Romansky’s actions demonstrated a lack of integrity and dishonesty. The court also found that Romansky engaged in dishonesty when he submitted to his firm, in the course of an internal investigation, a purported client letter of recommendation that he himself had written but the client had not approved and had expressly instructed him not to use. The court remanded a third charge concerning Romansky’s actions in billing certain clients at a premium. Because the matter was remanded to the board for additional findings, the court stated that the issue of sanction was premature.
IN RE KEVIN M. SABO. Bar No. 435676. July 3, 2003. The court disbarred Sabo by consent.
IN RE DEANGELO STARNES. Bar No. 451800. July 31, 2003. The court suspended Starnes for six months, with his reinstatement conditioned on proof of his fitness to practice law. Starnes made a material false statement to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions in responding to its inquiry prior to his admission; and upon gaining admission, he seriously neglected three separate matters. Specifically, Starnes failed to provide competent representation, abandoned his clients, and failed to withdraw as their counsel after he began working full time for a federal agency and could no longer shoulder his duties to his private clients. The court found that Starnes violated Rules 1.1(a) and (b); 1.3(a), (b), and (c); 1.4(a); 1.16(a); and 8.1(a).
In re Abdoulai A. Swareh. Bar No. 442216. July 24, 2003. The court disbarred Swareh by consent.
IN RE C. CRADY SWISHER. Bar No. 418291. June 5, 2003. In a reciprocal matter from West Virginia, the court imposed nonidentical discipline and suspended Swisher, who was already suspended for nonpayment of D.C. Bar dues, for 30 days consecutive to his reinstatement in compliance with D.C. Bar rules. Thereafter, his reinstatement after the 30-day suspension was conditioned upon his proof of fitness to practice law. Swisher was disciplined in West Virginia for failure to pay a personal judgment entered on a promissory note signed in partial settlement in a malpractice action. The court noted that the District of Columbia has no such disciplinary sanction. The court found, however, that Swisher’s West Virginia discipline was also based on his failure to respond and cooperate during the West Virginia disciplinary investigation, which does constitute misconduct in the District of Columbia and warrants reciprocal discipline. The West Virginia court suspended Swisher until he paid the judgment in full plus interest, successfully completed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, and paid all costs of the investigation and hearing in the matter.
Informal Admonitions Issued by the Office of Bar Counsel
IN RE WILLIAM S. BACH. Bar No. 448392. July 17, 2003. Bar Counsel issued Bach an informal admonition for failing to provide competent representation in an employment discrimination matter and failing to serve the client with the skill and care commensurate with that generally afforded to clients by other lawyers in similar matters.
IN RE ROBERT P. KAUFMAN. Bar No. 375715. July 18, 2003. Bar Counsel issued Kaufman an informal admonition for failing to provide a client a writing setting forth the basis or rate of his legal fees.
IN RE SAMUEL J. LEVINE. Bar No. 166306. July 8, 2003. Bar Counsel issued Levine an informal admonition for failing to provide competent, diligent, and zealous representation. Levine failed to ensure that his client’s notice of appeal was filed by the deadline.
IN RE WILLIAM D. MORRIS III. Bar No. 431636. July 2, 2003. Bar Counsel issued Morris an informal admonition for failing to turn over a client file at the termination of the representation, failing to take timely steps to protect a client’s interest by surrendering papers and property to which his client was entitled, and charging an unreasonable fee by requiring in his retainer agreement that the client pay a “turn over fee” for the file upon termination of the representation.
IN RE KENNETH N. PAGE. Bar No. 448437. May 20, 2003. Bar Counsel issued Page an informal admonition for rule violations in two separate matters. In both matters Page failed to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their matters, failed to comply promptly with their reasonable requests for information, and failed to withdraw from the representations when a conflict of interest arose and it became apparent that he could no longer effectively represent them.
IN RE YEELENG ROTHMAN. Bar No. 379727. July 17, 2003. Bar Counsel issued Rothman an informal admonition for failing to maintain records accounting for client property held in her possession for five years after termination of the representation and failing to maintain complete records of the handling and disposition of all funds and securities for five years after the final distribution of such funds and securities.
IN RE GUILLERMO D. URIARTE. Bar No. 463801. May 30, 2003. Bar Counsel issued Uriarte an informal admonition for failing to represent his client competently, failing to represent his client with diligence and zeal, and failing to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit his client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.