Thursday, September 15, 2011

Try Try Again

The District of Columbia Bar Counsel and an attorney (represented by counsel)  have submitted a proposed consent disposition in a case involving allegations of billing fraud. The proposed sanction is a 90 day suspension with all but 30 days stayed and probation of two years.

The admitted allegations:

The allegations that Respondent self-reported, and which were brought to the attention of Bar Counsel, are that Respondent, while acting as the principle attorney at his law firm responsible for editing and submitting bills to a certain client (“Client”), a university, submitted to the Client bills which falsely stated the billable rate for certain associates and paralegals who had worked on the client’s legal matters. Petition at ¶ 1. The specifics of these allegations, including the details of the various billings, are set forth in the Petition at ¶¶ 2-31, and the sum total of these false billings amounted to $20,062.00. The Petition alleges a violation of Rule 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and/or misrepresentation). Petition at ¶ 33(a).

A hearing committee has now recommended that the proposed sanction be imposed and the matter is before the Court of Appeals. I can only hope that the court adopts the recommendation rather than remand to the Board on Professional Responsibility for its views, which is invariably a recipe for disaster.

The sanction is consistent with comparable cases (see here ). I handled the linked case at hearing through the first round of oral arguments at the court, which later remanded the case. By then, I had escaped to Georgetown. The analysis shows an institutional leniency for billing misconduct that makes this disposition within the range of possible sanctions.

I've got my fingers crossed that this one will get through and advance the cause of consent discipline in the District of Columbia.

The case is In re Dennis P. Clarke and can be accessed at this link. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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