Thursday, January 3, 2019

Not So Special Anymore

In a matter of first impression, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals revoked the licence of a Special Legal Consultant.

The Board on Professional Responsibility (“Board”) recommends that respondent Ahmed M. Elhillali’s license as a Special Legal Consultant be revoked, without any right to reapply for this license for five years. The Board also recommends that respondent not be granted a license after the revocation period unless he pays restitution and proves his fitness to practice as a Special Legal Consultant. Although respondent contested the charges before the Hearing Committee, he withdrew his exceptions to its report and did not file any exceptions to the Board’s report. Disciplinary Counsel did not file any exceptions to the Board’s report either. For the following reasons, we adopt the Board’s recommendation.

The court had granted the limited license in 1995

Special Legal Consultants are allowed to provide advice about the law of the foreign country in which they are licensed, but are not permitted to provide “legal advice on or under the law of the District of Columbia or of the United States or of any state, territory, or possession thereof.” D.C. App. R. 46 (c)(4)(D)(5) (2008).

Respondent falsely held himself out as an attorney licensed to practice in the District of Columbia by maintaining a website for “The Law Office of Ahmed Elhillali,” with offices in Virginia and the District of Columbia. While representing clients, respondent referred to himself as “attorney of record,” “counselor,” and “attorney and a member in good standing” and formally entered his appearance as an attorney in immigration cases on at least ten occasions.

First impression

Because there is no precedent in the District of Columbia regarding the revocation or suspension of a Special Legal Consultant’s license, we will address (1) whether a Special Legal Consultant is governed by the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct, (2) whether it is appropriate to revoke or suspend respondent’s license, and (3) whether respondent should be allowed to reapply for this type of license.

Yes, yes and yes are the answers

we rely on the principle that Special Legal Consultants should be subject to sanctions analogous to those we would impose on an attorney for similar misconduct.

“A disbarred attorney not otherwise ineligible for reinstatement may not apply for reinstatement until the expiration of at least five years from the effective date of the disbarment.” D.C. Bar R. XI, § 16 (a). But, in general, a disbarred attorney may seek to be readmitted to our bar. We therefore conclude that  respondent may reapply for a Special Legal Consultant license according to the rules just as an attorney may apply for admission after disbarment.

The court's division consisted of three former D.C. U.S. Attorney Appellate Chiefs - Associate Judges Fisher and McLeese and Senior Judge Nebeker.

Two others former chiefs are Senior Judges Terry and Farrell.

When I applied to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court, I wanted my sponsor to be an attorney I deeply respected. Judge Terry was my choice. (Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2019/01/in-what-may-be-a-first-the-district-of-columbia-court-of-appeals-the-board-on-professional-responsibility-board-rec.html

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