Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Twelve Years After

An Ad Hoc  District of Columbia Hearing Committee recommends disbarment for a reckless misappropriation of entrusted funds.

Notably, the matter involved three client complaints filed with then-Bar Counsel in 2005.

What delay?

Respondent complains that he was denied due process because Disciplinary Counsel waited five years after the complaints were lodged before filing the Specification of Charges. Respondent argues that the delay was “unreasonable, unnecessary, an abuse of discretion and has been extremely detrimental to the Respondent in many ways.” R. Br. at 7. Disciplinary investigations are complex and require time to develop properly. The record in this case shows that Disciplinary Counsel notified Respondent of the complaints on April 5, 2005 (Ms. Hammie-Bonner); November 9, 2005 (Mr. Thompson); and September 28, 2005 (Mr. Wyatt). DX 1-F; DX 2-A; DX 3-A. Disciplinary Counsel sent correspondence to Respondent prior to the conclusion of these investigations in May 1, 2008 (Ms. Hammie-Bonner); January 24, 2008 (Mr. Thompson); and August 20, 2007 (Mr. Wyatt). DX 1-N; DX 2-E; DX 3-C. On October 30, 2008, Respondent was reciprocally suspended by the D.C. Court of Appeals based on a disciplinary suspension in Maryland. DX C. Two years later, DisciplinaryCounsel filed the Specification of Charges in this case.

Delay in disciplinary investigations does not benefit the Respondent, the public, or our disciplinary system. But investigations that are conducted in a cursory fashion without sufficient time to consider all aspects of the charges are much worse for everyone. Respondent cites no prejudice he suffered due to Disciplinary Counsel’s delay other than “keeping his life in suspense.” R. Br. at 8. Moreover, the vast majority of the delay in this proceeding was at the request of Respondent who filed several motions for deferral and various requests for additional time to submit his filings. The Hearing Committee does not find that this delay was unreasonable or detrimental to Respondent sufficient to warrant a dismissal of the charges or a reduction in the sanction.


 Disciplinary Counsel served Respondent with a Specification of Charges on October 27, 2010. Respondent, through counsel, filed an answer on December 14, 2010. In July 2011, this matter was stayed while Respondent defended criminal charges in Nigeria. See Board Order of July 19, 2011. On April 22, 2016, the case  resumed after Respondent failed to file a response to an order to show cause why the stay should not be lifted. By this time, Respondent’s counsel had withdrawn and he has since proceeded pro se. After holding two pre-hearings and accommodating other requests for delay, the Hearing Committee held a hearing on May 16, 2017. 

The case is In re Ephraim Ugwuonye.

Sahara Reporters reports his disbarment in Maryland, New York and Nigeria as did The Nigeria Lawyer. (Mike Frisch)


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