Friday, July 14, 2017

Sanctioning Dishonesty In D.C.

An attorney with an extensive disciplinary record who was previously sanctioned for CJA voucher billing misconduct lied in a recusal motion and before a hearing committee and thus should be suspended for one year, according to the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility.

The United States Attorney had declined to prosecute the billing fraud if the attorney made restitution, which he did.

Here, he falsely represented in a recusal motion that the judge had filed the voucher bar complaint (he had not) and that the complaint had been dismissed (it had not), as well as gave false testimony in the bar hearing.

The board viewed the three year and fitness sanction sought by Disciplinary Counsel as unduly harsh

Here, Respondent’s conduct is simply less severe [than cases cited by Disciplinary Counsel]. Like those cases involving extended periods of suspension beyond a year, Respondent lied in his recusal motion to Judge Canan; lied to the Hearing Committee about the reason for including misrepresentations in the recusal motion; and was previously suspended in the Voucher case for making reckless misrepresentations on CJA vouchers, and received five informal admonitions arising out of other matters (none of which involve dishonesty). However, his conduct neither involved the protracted and repeated dishonesty nor any other overt act to conceal the dishonesty as found in the three year suspension cases. In addition, Respondent’s conduct did not involve the extensive neglect present in Bradley. Thus, while the misconduct here, a false statement to a court and false testimony to the Hearing Committee, is unquestionably serious, it is not as serious as the conduct in Bradley or the three-year suspension cases.

But did propose a fitness requirement

we find that Disciplinary Counsel has proven by clear and convincing evidence that there is a serious doubt as to Respondent’s ability to practice law following his suspension. Here, Respondent’s misconduct was very serious, as it involved multiple instances of dishonesty—to the court (in the recusal motion) and the Hearing Committee (in his false testimony)—even if such dishonesty did not occur over a protracted period of time. The Court has consistently held that “‘honesty is basic to the practice of law, and that lawyers have a greater duty than ordinary citizens to be scrupulously honest at all times.’” In re Baber, 106 A.3d 1072, 1077 (D.C. 2015)(quoting Guberman, 978 A.2d at 209 n.10). Thus, when a lawyer’s misconduct creates a serious doubt as to a lawyer’s honesty, it creates a serious doubt as to his or her ability to practice law. 

The case is In re Harry Tun. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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