Thursday, March 8, 2007
The integrity of the legal profession in the District of Columbia sustained another body blow today when the District of Columbia Court of Appeals adopted a Board on Professional Responsibility recommendation of a six-month suspension for a wide array of serious client abuse including settling a case without the client's knowledge or permission, intentional prejudice to the client, conflicts of interest, impermissible business transaction with the client, dishonesty and interference with the administration of justice. The Board felt the hearing committee's one-year proposed sanction was too harsh. The court rejected Bar Counsel's exception calling for a meaningful sanction.
In most jurisdictions this type of conduct would and should get a lawyer disbarred. In D. C., the court with the moral and ethical obligation to uphold the integrity of the Bar defers to its board and treats the misconduct as relatively minor. Read the facts and weep. Also, the reader should be aware that the hearing committee bent over backwards to make findings favorable to the accused lawyer and hostile to the client/victim. And, it only took eight years to resolve the case!
Disclosure: I had some involvement in the prosecution prior to leaving Bar Counsel almost six years ago. (Mike Frisch)