Thursday, March 27, 2008
Two reciprocal discipline cases decided today by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals show the potentially complex issues of imposing discipline based on the findings of another jurisdiction. in the Hallal case, the court considered a matter where the attorney had been indefinitely suspended in Massachusetts "for improperly billing clients for his personal expenses." Because there is no such thing as an indefinite suspension in D.C., the court held that the "functionally equivalent" sanction was a five-year suspension with fitness. The attorney was given nunc pro tunc treatment to the date of his Massachusetts suspension (making him eligible for reinstatement this June) because he had never practiced in D.C. and "the Massachusetts Bar Counsel notified the District of Columbia of his suspension on his behalf." That last quote is somewhat interesting because the court's rules require the attorney himself to report his suspension.
The Gailliard case involved a South Carolina attorney convicted of a criminal offense that "involved striking his teenage son with a truck." Rather than conduct a plenary inquiry into whether the crime involved moral turpitude, the court agreed with Bar Counsel and the Board that "it would be a misuse of resources ... to hold a hearing on the issue of moral turpitude at this time." The court found that the functionally equivalent sanction was a three-year suspension with fitness. As the attorney has been administratively suspended for nearly 20 years, the issue of moral turpitude will be considered if and when he seeks reinstatement. I applaud this common-sense, resource-saving approach. (Mike Frisch)