Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Not Ready For Prime Time

A relatively recent amendment to District of Columbia Court of Appeals Rule XI (governing bar discipline) allows for a streamlined reinstatement process where Bar Counsel does not object to the attorney's petition.

The change was adopted in response to the length of time that even uncontested petitions took to work their way through the system. The amended rule grants some discretion to Bar Counsel to at least advocate in favor of summary reinstatement after the Court of Appeals has ordered suspension with fitness or disbarment:

Rule XI, section16 (e) Uncontested petitions for reinstatement. A petition for reinstatement by a disbarred attorney or a suspended attorney who is required to prove fitness to practice as a condition of reinstatement, which is uncontested by Bar Counsel following a suitable investigation, may be considered by the Court on the available record and submissions of the parties. In every uncontested matter, Bar Counsel shall submit to the Court a report stating why Bar Counsel is satisfied that the attorney meets the criteria for reinstatement. The Court may grant the petition, deny it, or request a recommendation by the Board concerning reinstatement.

The court recently sent such a case back to the Board on Professional Responsibility for consideration rather than follow Bar Counsel's recommendation to reinstate an attorney without any hearing. The board has entered an order sending the matter to a hearing committee.

The attorney had consented to disbarment in 2003 in the wake of a criminal conviction for attempted malicious wounding. The facts are set forth in an opinion of the Virginia Court of Appeals affirming the conviction (over a dissent that would have granted a motion to suppress statements).

The conduct?

The attorney was in a romantic relationship with the victim. When she cut it off, he cut the brake lines to her car. When she drove off the next morning, the brakes failed. She was able to swerve and stop the car before it slid into an intersection, avoiding serious injury.

Further, according to the board's order, he was convicted of larceny in 2009.

I think the board is correct here. A hearing should precede any consideration of reinstatement.

The board has set an unusually speedy schedule. The hearing committee must issue a report in 60 days and the board will file its recommendation 60 days thereafter.

The board's order can be accessed by going to this link. The case is In re Kevin Sabo. (Mike Frisch)


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