Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Good Day For The District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility

In the most hopeful recent trend of the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility, that august body has issued a two-page report and recommendation of disbarment in a matter in which an Ad Hoc Hearing Committee had proposed that sanction last Halloween.

In re Leicester Stovell actually takes the failure to pursue exceptions seriously

Respondent Leicester B. Stovell is charged in a four-count Specification of Charges with violations of Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.3(a), 1.3(b)(1), 1.3(b)(2), 1.3(c), 1.4(a), 1.4(b), 1.15(a), 1.15(b), 1.15(e), 1.16(d), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d) of the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct (the “Rules”). Each of the four counts arose from a separate client matter. The Ad Hoc Hearing Committee found clear and convincing evidence that Respondent violated each of the charges except for one of the Rule 1.16(d) charges in Count I and the commingling charges in violation of Rule 1.15(a) in Counts II, III, and IV. Because the Hearing Committee found two instances of intentional misappropriation in violation of Rule 1.15(a) in Counts II and III, the Committee recommended that Respondent be disbarred pursuant to In re Addams, 579 A.2d 190, 191 (D.C. 1990) (en banc).

Disciplinary Counsel took no exception to the Report and Recommendation. Respondent took exception to the Hearing Committee’s findings and recommended sanction but failed to file a brief, thereby waiving the right to oral argument. See Board Rule 13.4(a). The Board, having reviewed the record, concurs with the Hearing Committee’s factual findings as supported by substantial evidence in the record and with its conclusions of law, including the finding that Respondent’s misappropriation of client funds was intentional in Counts II and III. For the reasons set forth in the Hearing Committee’s Report and Recommendation, which is attached hereto and adopted and incorporated by reference, we recommend that Respondent be disbarred, the sanction mandated by Addams.

By my (rough) count, this is the fourth summary adoption of a hearing committee report in the past six months. 

If anyone ever takes a serious look at reform in the D.C. system, the first issue is the two levels of review - board and court - of the hearing report. While many jurisdictions - Louisiana and Illinois for example - have similar structures, many other jurisdictions have the hearing report go right to the Supreme Court.

Kansas does it that way and guess what?

The post-charging process in Kansas appears to take less than a year to its ultimate resolution. 

Summary adoption of a well-reasoned hearing committee report is the best solution to the delays endemic to D.C. bar cases. 

Of course, it helps to have a well-reasoned report.

Any day in which a wheel does not get reinvented is a good day in D.C. bar discipline.

Bravo Board. (Mike Frisch)

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