Thursday, August 13, 2009
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals declined to impose disbarment in a reciprocal discipline matter from Maryland, in which that sanction was imposed. The court followed a recommendation from its Board on Professional Responsibility to suspend the lawyer for 18 months with automatic reinstatement. The court notes that, unlike Maryland, it does not follow a presumption favoring disbarment for serious dishonesty and discusses the extensive D.C. case law in which dishonest conduct has resulted in relatively light sanctions. The case descriptions at page 8 of the court's opinion underscore the point.
Thus, a lawyer disbarred in Maryland will be able to transfer his practice to the District of Columbia after serving his time without any required showing of rehabilitation or present fitness. Because the lawyer was subject to an order of interim suspension in this matter, he is presently eligible to practice as a result of this decision. Let the clients beware.
Oh, the court did order the attorney to complete a CLE ethics course within six months. Hopefully, he will learn that lying to a client and forging court documents is not professionally responsible behavior. Some of us learned that in kindergarden. (Mike Frisch)