Bar Counsel: Failure to Communicate
From Washington Lawyer, October 2005
By Asma Naeem
Imagine, if you will, the latest novel by John Grisham, in which a hardworking attorney (slated to be played by Tom Cruise in the movie adaptation) who is climbing the ladder of success and partnership in muggy Washington, D.C., suddenly finds out that he is being disciplined by the Office of Bar Counsel for failing to communicate with his client and not pursuing his case zealously and diligently. Not on the edge of your seat?
The Office of Bar Counsel handles this kind of case every day. And the discipline meted out for such violations is not inconsequential, ranging from informal admonitions to suspensions from the practice of law for 30 days or longer, for more egregious misconduct.
Diligence is not only what makes one lawyer better than another, but also an ethical duty that encompasses one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an attorney. Rule 1.3 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct states in pertinent part, “(a) A lawyer shall represent a client zealously and diligently within the bounds of law. . . . (c) A lawyer shall act with reasonable promptness in representing a client.”
Zealous representation does have its limits. As comment 1 to the rule states, “a lawyer is not bound to press for every advantage that might be realized for a client.” The Office of Bar Counsel, however, receives few complaints with this type of allegation. Most of the cases that we consider involve an attorney who has failed to do an essential task within the ambit of the representation.
Take, for example, the recent case of In re Shepherd, in which the respondent was publicly censured and ordered to take a course on professional responsibility for failing to appear at an initial trial conference and failing to promptly communicate the status of the case to his client. Because the respondent failed to appear, the case was dismissed; in fact, the respondent was not even aware of the dismissal until over a year later.
In his defense, the respondent explained that he transferred the case to another attorney, and that it was the other attorney who did not attend the conference. However, the respondent failed to inform his client that he transferred her case to a new attorney, failed to gain her consent for the withdrawal, and failed to follow through with the transfer in any adequate manner.
As we can see, the respondent’s lack of diligence revealed itself in many forms, the most significant being that he failed to ensure that the new attorney actually contacted the client, went to the pretrial conference, and carried on with the representation.
Interestingly enough, even though the case was dismissed, the client was not ultimately prejudiced because the statute of limitations had been tolled while she was incarcerated. The fact that there was a lack of substantial prejudice aside from delay, however, did not vitiate the respondent’s violation of Rule 1.3.
As In re Shepherd illustrates, sometimes lack of diligence and lack of communication go hand in hand. This dyad of misconduct is not surprising: if an attorney is not doing what he or she is supposed to be doing in a case, the attorney will probably not want to let the client know. We often see this stick-your-head-in-the-sand mentality at the Office of Bar Counsel—a poor practice considering that communication is one of the cornerstones of the legal profession and an important facet of the fiduciary duty owed to the client. Indeed, lawyers are required not only to respond to their clients’ inquiries, but to initiate communication with them whenever necessary. Specifically, Rule 1.4 states:
(a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
(c) A lawyer who receives an offer of settlement in a civil case or a proffered plea bargain in a criminal case shall inform the client promptly of the substance of the communication.
Although any violation of this rule harms the client, violations of subsection (c) tend to result in the most damage to a client’s case. This is exactly what happened in In re Bernstein, which resulted in the respondent being suspended for 30 days. While representing hit-and-run accident victims, the respondent failed to pursue the claim with the insurance company for over three years, failed to inform his clients that he filed suit on their behalf in West Virginia, and failed to communicate a settlement offer to his clients for an unreasonable amount of time. As the D.C. Court of Appeals stated:
The record reflects that respondent did not inform Wheaton and Smith that he had filed the West Virginia suit for eighteen months and that he did not inform them of State Farm’s settlement offer. Had he explained his progress in the matter, and that an offer to settle the claim in full would of course be superior to litigation, his clients could have instructed respondent to accept the offer. As it was, they never even knew about it.
As it turned out, the respondent’s efforts to hide one type of misconduct (neglect) constituted another (lack of communication). When faced with a situation like this, an attorney should be forthcoming with the client, rather than risk running into bigger problems. We should note as well that an attorney cannot shirk the responsibility of communicating with the client by having someone else, lawyer or nonlawyer, do it for the attorney.
What can you do in your day-to-day practice to be ethically consistent with Rules 1.3 and 1.4? The answer to this is simple: maintain a manageable workload so that you can pay adequate attention to each and every one of your cases, don’t procrastinate, and always talk to your client. That way you can avoid hearing from some disciplinary tribunal what was made famous by Strother Martin in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
 Representing a client zealously also does not mean that an attorney needs to be aggressive to the point of incivility when dealing with opposing counsel. See D.C. Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 1.3, cmt. 6.
 No. 03-BG-1343, slip op. (D.C. Mar. 3, 2005).
 In addition to violating Rules 1.3(a) and (c) and 1.4(a), the respondent was also found to have violated Rules 1.16(d), for failing to protect his client’s interests in a timely manner during termination of representation, and 8.4(d), for conduct interfering with the administration of justice.
 Bar Dkt. Nos. 313-98 & 83-99, Board on Prof’l Responsibility Rep. at 14 (Dec. 10, 2003); see In re Lewis, 689 A.2d 561 (D.C. 1997) (actual prejudice not necessary element of the disciplinary violation).
 Comment 2 to Rule 1.4 states: “The lawyer must initiate and maintain the consultative and decision-making process if the client does not do so and must ensure that the ongoing process is thorough and complete.”
 707 A.2d 371 (D.C. 1998).
 At the hearing the respondent explained that he was suffering from a bevy of personal problems, but waived the opportunity to present these as mitigating factors. Id. at 376.
 Id. at 376–77.
See In re Dreier, 671 A.2d 455 (D.C. 1996) (attorney’s reliance on third party for client communication violated Rule 1.4).
Disciplinary Actions Taken by the Board on Professional Responsibility
In re Arthur J. Frank. Bar No. 419575. June 13, 2005. The majority of the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Frank for six months. Frank engaged in negligent misappropriation when he failed to maintain enough money in his client trust accounts to satisfy his obligations. One member of the board dissented and recommended that the matter be remanded to the hearing committee for the receiving of additional evidence. Rule 1.15(a).
In re Donald L. Hoage. Bar No. 186551. July 29, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Hoage and condition his reinstatement upon his disgorging his fees of $48,000, with interest calculated at 6 percent per annum from June 20, 2001, to the D.C. Bar Clients’ Security Fund. Hoage, while serving as a personal representative to an estate, failed to provide competent representation; failed to serve a client with skill and care; engaged in reckless misappropriation; failed to promptly deliver funds belonging to a client; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty; and seriously interfered with the administration of justice. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.15(a), 1.15(b), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).
In re Celicia Hoover-Hankerson. Bar No. 438086. July 26, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Hoover-Hankerson. Hoover-Hankerson was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 2; two counts of fraud in the first degree and aiding and abetting, in violation of D.C. Code §§ 22-3221(a), 22-3222(a)(1), and 22-1805 (2001); and two counts of theft concerning federally funded programs and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 666(a)(1)(A) and 2. The board concluded that because two of the crimes for which Hoover-Hankerson was convicted (fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States) involved moral turpitude per se, disbarment is mandatory.
In Francisco A. Laguna. Bar No. 414894. July 26, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals deny Laguna’s petition for reinstatement.
In re Maria C. Mendoza. Bar No. 430906. July 27, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Mendoza for 90 days. Mendoza engaged in dishonesty, deceit, and misrepresentation with respect to a factoring agreement for Criminal Justice Act (CJA) vouchers that she entered into with another party. Mendoza submitted at least 27 false CJA vouchers, with the intent to mislead the other party into believing that the vouchers had been submitted to the court, in order to obtain advance funds on cases that had not been completed. Rule 8.4(c).
In re Randy M. Mott. Bar No. 211037. July 28, 2005. Pursuant to an order of remand, issued sua sponte by the D.C. Court of Appeals to reconsider the issue of sanction, the Board on Professional Responsibility affirms its prior recommendation that the D.C. Court of Appeals publicly censure Mott. Mott failed to safe-keep property and maintain records, failed to keep trust funds in a trust account, and failed to keep and maintain records. Rules 1.15(a) and 1.17(a) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 19(f).
In re James S. Powell. Bar No. 427084. July 27, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Powell for one year with fitness. Powell made false statements of material fact on his application for admission to the bar of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Rules 8.1(a), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).
In re Robert L. Rehberger. Bar No. 393234. July 27, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Rehberger. Rehberger was convicted in Georgia state court for criminal offenses of false imprisonment, sexual battery, and simple battery, involving moral turpitude on the facts. Rules 1.7(b)(4) and 8.4(b).
In re Michael A. Romansky. Bar No. 942169. June 24, 2005. Upon remand from the D.C. Court of Appeals, the Board on Professional Responsibility found insufficient evidence to conclude that Romansky’s conduct with respect to two clients violated Rule 8.4(c). The board affirmed its recommendation that the court suspend Romansky for 30 days based on dishonesty in connection with billing practices for another client and also in connection with a purported client letter of recommendation he submitted to his firm. Rule 8.4(c).
In re Salvatore Scanio. Bar No. 435343. July 29, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals publicly censure Scanio. Scanio, while pursuing his own personal injury claim arising out of an automobile accident, engaged in conduct involving dishonesty when he made a claim to his insurance provider for lost income and lost bonus, and subsequently when he falsely told his firm that he had explained to his insurance provider that he had not lost any income. One member of the board dissented with regard to sanction, recommending that Scanio be suspended for 60 days. Rule 8.4(c).
In re Lloyd Ukwu. Bar No. 420617. July 29, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that, in connection with five client matters, the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Ukwu for one year, with reinstatement conditioned upon fitness and restitution to three of the five clients (the other two were pro bono representations), with interest of 6 percent per annum from the date of each client’s payment. The board concluded that, while representing five foreign nationals over a four-year period, Ukwu failed to provide adequate representation in all matters. It further concluded that Ukwu also engaged in the serious interference with the administration of justice in three matters and that he acted dishonestly, intentionally abandoned a client, and made misrepresentations to the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Board of Immigration Appeals in one matter. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.3(a), 1.3(b)(1), 1.3(b)(2), 1.3(c), 1.4(a), 1.4(b), 3.3(a)(1), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).
In re Sheron J. Walters. Bar No. 464655. July 22, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals disbar Walters by consent.
In re Donald W. Whitehead. Bar No. 431037. July 29, 2005. The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals suspend Whitehead for 60 days, with the suspension stayed in favor of two years’ probation, during which time he be required to comply with five specified conditions. Whitehead failed to serve a client with skill and care; failed to act diligently and zealously represent a client; failed to act with reasonable promptness in representing a client; failed, in the context of termination of his representation, to take timely steps to protect a client’s interest (such as surrendering property to which the client was entitled to court-appointed successor counsel); and engaged in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice, in each of four separate client representations. In addition, in two of the representations Whitehead failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. Rules 1.1(b), 1.3(a), 1.3(c), 1.4(a) 1.16(d), and 8.4(d).
In re Steven M. Angel. Bar No. 405417. June 3, 2005. In two consolidated reciprocal matters from Oklahoma, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose reciprocal discipline and suspend Angel for five years with fitness. In the first reciprocal matter the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued Angel a public reprimand. Thereafter, with 13 disciplinary grievances pending against him, Angel was allowed to resign his membership in the Oklahoma Bar Association provided he reimburse the client security fund for any money disbursed because of his conduct. The resignation prohibited him from applying for reinstatement before the lapse of five years. The grievances alleged that Angel neglected or failed to communicate with his clients, failed to respond to the grievance as required by Rule 5.2 of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct, failed to return unearned portions of his fee, and in three matters failed to provide competent service to his client.
In re Mary D. Brennan. Bar No. 460962. July 28, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose an identical sanction consisting of a 90-day suspension, nunc pro tunc, to March 9, 2004. The Court of Appeals of Maryland suspended Brennan for 90 days by consent for failing to file income tax returns, misconduct with respect to her attorney escrow account, and the unauthorized practice of law during a period of decertification.
In re Timothy Brown. Bar No. 366743. June 10, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose substantially different reciprocal discipline and suspend Brown for 30 days, with reinstatement conditioned on his compliance with the restitution requirement imposed in Maryland. The 30-day suspension is to run from March 16, 1994. The Court of Appeals of Maryland indefinitely suspended Brown pursuant to a joint petition subject to conditions of reinstatement. Brown, while retained to represent a client in a criminal matter, charged an unreasonable fee, failed to keep a client’s fee advance and his own property separate, and upon termination of representation failed to return an unearned fee to his former client. In addition, Brown failed to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority.
In re Louis J. De Maio. Bar No. 151035. June 14, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose nonidentical reciprocal discipline and suspend De Maio for 18 months with fitness. The Maryland Court of Appeals disbarred De Maio for making “false, spurious and inflammatory representations and allegations” against the chief judge and clerk of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, in various court filings. In addition, the Maryland court found that De Maio failed to cooperate with a Maryland Bar Counsel investigation into his conduct.
In re Timothy A. Dewitt. Bar No. 432651. July 15, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from California, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend DeWitt for 60 days and stay the execution of the suspension in favor of an 18-month period of probation, subject to the terms and conditions of probation imposed by the California court. The hearing department of the California State Bar court approved a stipulation between the state bar and DeWitt agreeing to a set of facts establishing DeWitt’s violation of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(c). DeWitt stipulated that he caused to be printed what appeared to be valid parking citations, without legal authority, designed to look authentic. DeWitt issued approximately 35 of these citations in various California jurisdictions and received payment from three of the citation recipients, ultimately making restitution, with interest, to the one citizen from whom he collected payment.
In re Phillip Timothy Howard. Bar No. 457694. June 2, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Florida, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose functional identical discipline and publicly censure Howard. The Supreme Court of Florida reprimanded Howard based on a conditional consent judgment in which Howard admitted there was a factual basis to find he violated Rule 8.4(c), for conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Howard, on behalf of his law firm, was a signatory to a contract between the state of Florida and a group of 12 independent law firms. Believing he had authority to do so, Howard signed that names of certain of his cocounsel to a document without noting on the document that he was executing it on their behalf.
In re Wayne A. Hagendorf. Bar No. 430695. June 23, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Nevada, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Hagendorf for five months, with all but 60 days stayed. The Supreme Court of Nevada suspended Hagendorf for five months, with all but 60 days stayed, on condition that he pay restitution of $25,000 and costs not to exceed $1,000. Hagendorf’s suspension by the Nevada court was based on an agreement for violating Nevada disciplinary rules pertaining to candor toward the tribunal; relations with opposing counsel; truthfulness in statements to others; dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, while representing himself in civil litigation against a former landlord.
In re Paul B. Klein. Bar No. 391816. June 2, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose functionally identical discipline and publicly censure Klein. The Court of Appeals of Maryland reprimanded Klein by consent based on stipulated violations of inadequate communication relating to a single client and arising out of Klein’s referral of a client’s personal injury case to another attorney without adequately informing the client that he would terminate his involvement in the case.
In re Robert D. Klock. Bar No. 282822. June 13, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Arkansas, the Board on Professional Responsibility issued Klock a board reprimand. The Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct issued Klock a “public caution” for engaging in ineffective assistance and performance while representing a client in a criminal matter.
In re Antoine I. Mann. Bar No. 433378. July 18, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and indefinitely suspend Mann. The Court of Appeals of Maryland indefinitely suspended Mann by consent owing to his “psychological and/or psychotic problems that cannot be diagnosed at this time due to [his] abuse of alcohol.” In his consent Mann acknowledged that if a hearing were to be held, sufficient evidence could be produced to sustain the allegations of misconduct in eight separate complaints over a four-year period. Mann also consented to pay $6,474.85 to reimburse the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission for costs incurred in its investigation.
In re James R. Marlen. Bar No. 458330. July 28, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Texas, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and suspend Marlen for two years, with the suspension stayed in favor of two years’ probation, subject to the conditions imposed in Texas. The Texas Grievance Committee found that Marlen had failed to provide competent and diligent representation, failed to communicate with a client, failed to safe-keep property, and failed to respond to a disciplinary authority.
In re Michael J. Miller. Bar No. 397689. July 20, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose functionally identical discipline and publicly censure Miller. The Court of Appeals of Maryland publicly reprimanded Miller by consent for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Mississippi.
In re Agostinho D. Reis. Bar No. 304436. June 7, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from New York, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Reis. The Appellate Division, Supreme Court of New York, First Judicial Department, disbarred Reis on the grounds that he had neither appeared nor applied in writing to the disciplinary committee or the court for a hearing or reinstatement of a suspension order. Reis was suspended for failure to cooperate with the disciplinary committee’s investigation and uncontested evidence of his professional misconduct.
In re Albert S. Watkins. Bar No. 399625. July 19, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Missouri, the Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that the D.C. Court of Appeals impose functionally identical reciprocal discipline and publicly censure Watkins. The Supreme Court of Missouri publicly reprimanded Watkins based on a stipulation of facts and joint recommendation for discipline. Watkins revealed information relating to the representation of a client without the client’s consent after consultation and engaged in a conflict of interest, in that his representation of one client was materially limited by his responsibilities to another client.
Disciplinary Actions Taken by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals
In re Michael O. Burnett. Bar No. 430523. July 21, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals suspended Burnett for 30 days, with reinstatement conditioned on Burnett’s responding to Bar Counsel’s inquiries and fitness. Burnett failed to respond or cooperate with Bar Counsel in the investigation of three disciplinary complaints that were filed against him in 2001 and 2002.
In re Mark M. Hager. Bar No. 418262. July 14, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals granted Hager’s petition for reinstatement, conditioned upon (1) his disgorgement to the D.C. Bar Clients’ Security Fund of $57,068 (this being the full amount of his attorney’s fees received in the matter leading to his suspension, minus expenses and taxes paid), plus interest calculated at the legal rate of 6 percent, such entire amount having heretofore been placed into an escrow account established by Hager; (2) his agreement that he will turn over to that fund any tax benefits he might realize as a consequence of that disgorgement; and (3) his satisfactory completion of a continuing legal education course on professional responsibility.
In re Adrian P. Ifill. Bar No. 192864. June 16, 2005. In two consolidated disciplinary proceedings, one an original matter and the other a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed two separate sanctions. With regard to the original matter, the court suspended Ifill for one year, with full restitution in the amount of $10,000 with interest at the legal rate beginning no later that November 9, 1995, as a condition of restitution. The original matter, which was also part of the reciprocal matter, involved a client’s potential claims against insurance companies whereby Ifill failed to provide competent representation, failed to perform substantive work, failed to communicate, failed to communicate the rate or basis of the fee in writing, charged an excessive fee, made misrepresentations to the client, and made false statements of material fact to D.C. Bar Counsel, which he repeated in the Maryland disciplinary matter. With regard to the reciprocal matter, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and disbarred Ifill. The reciprocal matter involved an estate matter in which Ifill misappropriated entrusted funds, took a fee for work on the estate without prior approval of the Maryland Orphans’ Court, and gave false statements and testimony to cover up the
In re Robert P. Kaufman. Bar No. 375715. June 30, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals publicly censured Kaufman. Kaufman failed to cooperate with Bar Counsel’s investigation and failed to comply with a board order compelling a response. Kaufman appeared and participated before a hearing committee in the matter. Rules 8.1(b) and 8.4(d) and D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2(b)(3).
In re Jacqueline C. Morris-Goodson. Bar No. 281998. July 7, 2005. The D.C. Court Appeals indefinitely suspended Morris-Goodson based on disability.
In re Gerald H. Parshall Jr. Bar No. 396877. July 21, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals suspended Parshall for 18 months. Parshall, in his capacity as a trial lawyer employed by the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice, on at least one occasion, intentionally misled a U.S. district court by his filing of a false status report that also included attached documents he had fabricated in order to support his fraudulent report.
In re Billy L. Ponds. Bar No. 379883. June 9, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals publicly censured Ponds. Ponds improperly disclosed confidential information in a motion to withdraw as defense counsel in Maryland. Maryland Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 1.6 (made applicable by D.C. Rule 8.5(b)(1) (choice of law)).
In re Andrew M. Steinberg. Bar No. 350983. July 7, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals suspended Steinberg for 60 days, with reinstatement conditioned on making restitution to the client in the amount of $750 plus interest at 6 percent annum, and further ordered that the 60-day suspension run consecutive to Steinberg’s suspension and requirement that he demonstrate fitness to practice law that was the sanction in another matter. Steinberg failed to provide competent representation; failed to represent a client with the skill and care of similarly situated practitioners; failed to adhere to the objectives of his client; failed to represent a client with diligence and zeal; failed to represent a client with reasonable promptness; and failed to communicate with a client. Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.2(a), 1.3(a), 1.3(c), and 1.4(a).
In re Gerald S. Susman. Bar No. 12799. June 9, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Susman. Susman pleaded guilty in 1997 to the felony offense of making false statements in relation to documents required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Rules 8.4(b) and 8.4(c).
In re John W. Thyden. Bar No. 179879. June 16, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals suspended Thyden for 30 days. In connection with a bankruptcy matter, Thyden undertook representation of one client, a creditor to the bankruptcy petitioner, for the purpose of advancing the interests of other creditors; disregarded the interests of the client; failed to communicate with the client or to inform the client of a potential settlement offer; filed inappropriate pleadings that delayed the bankruptcy proceeding; and prejudiced the client by subjecting him to sanctions. Rules 1.4(a)–(c) and 8.4(d).
In re George E. Tillerson III. Bar No. 446661. June 16, 2005. The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred Tillerson. Tillerson was convicted in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia of first-degree theft, in violation of D.C. Code §§ 22-3211 and 22-3211(a) (2001), a crime that involved moral turpitude per se, for which disbarment is mandatory.
In re Phillip T. Howard. Bar No. 457694. July 21, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Florida, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and publicly censured Howard. The Supreme Court of Florida publicly reprimanded Howard for conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Howard executed a conditional consent judgment in which he admitted that in 1995, believing that he had the authority to do so, he signed the names of some of his cocounsel to a document without noting in every instance that he was executing the document on their behalf.
In re Thomas O’Toole. Bar No. 419140. June 23, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and suspended O’Toole for 30 days. The Court of Appeals of Maryland suspended O’Toole for 30 days, finding that he willfully failed to file his own individual federal and state income tax return forms over the course of three years, from 1998 to 2001, although he had made substantial estimated tax payments.
In re Denis L. Ventriglia. Bar No. 370938. June 30, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from North Carolina, the D.C. Court of Appeals imposed identical reciprocal discipline and suspended Ventriglia for two years, with the suspension stayed in favor of two years of unsupervised probation nunc pro tunc to December 29, 2003. Ventriglia failed to file and pay federal and state income tax returns for 1997, 1998, and 1999, and to pay self-employment tax from 1997 to 2000.
Informal Admonitions Issued by the Office of Bar Counsel
In re Leroy T. Jenkins. Bar No. 414080. June 16, 2005. Bar Counsel issued Jenkins an informal admonition for failing to file timely proof of service on the defendants in a civil case and failing to file timely and appropriate motions to reinstate the case. Rules 1.1(a) and 1.3(c).
The Office of Bar Counsel compiled the foregoing summaries of disciplinary actions. 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