Friday, December 19, 2008
A District of Columbia hearing committee has concluded that an attorney did not violate Rule 8.4(c) (prohibiting conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation) in answering a written question on an application for temporary legal employment that asked:
Have you ever been disbarred, or been the subject of disciplinary action by any State or local bar association or committee? If yes, please specify circumstances and dates...
At the time, the attorney was the subject of a recommendation by the Board on Professional Responsibility of disbarment with all but 30 days stayed. Shortly after the answer was given, the court imposed the recommended sanction.
The hearing committee found that the attorney had answered "in subjective good faith" with "no intent to deceive" because she had interpreted the question to only address final discipline imposed. Her "subjective interpretation of the application question was objectively reasonable." (Italics in original.) Further, the committee accepted her testimony that she had told the interviewer of the proposed discipline, which the interviewer had denied: "we find the [interviewer's] testimony unpersuasive and unworthy of belief...[the testimony] was speculative and self-serving. [The attorney's] version of the conversation...rings more true."
Nice for the hearing committee to find, in aid of its conclusion, that a disinterested witness who was trying to help the bar deal with an allegation of misconduct was a liar. And, I guess, the attorney's testimony as to the supposed disclosure of the impended discipline wasn't "self-serving."
Oh, the original misconduct involved misappropriation of entrusted funds and false statements to Bar Counsel. Those inconvenient facts go unmentioned in the report. (Mike Frisch)