Friday, November 13, 2020

D.C. BPR Rejects Contention That Conduct In Ireland Is Outside Disciplinary Jurisdiction

The District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility has recommended disbarment of an attorney

This matter arises from Respondent Lawrence D. O’Neill’s representation of a client, Adriano Fusco, in Ireland and his handling of entrusted funds he obtained from the sale of Fusco’s stake in a jointly held business. An Ad Hoc Hearing Committee determined that Respondent violated D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rules”) 1.15(a) (intentional misappropriation), 3.3(a)(1) (knowing dishonesty to a tribunal), 8.1(a) (knowing dishonesty to Disciplinary Counsel), 8.4(b) (larceny, theft, and wire fraud), and 8.4(c) (dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation), as well as Rules 1.5(b) (written fee agreement), 1.15(a) (record-keeping), 1.15(c) (failure to promptly deliver client funds and render full accounting), 1.16(d) (failure to return client funds upon termination), 3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal), and 8.4(d) (serious interference with the administration of justice), and recommended that he be disbarred for intentional misappropriation and flagrant dishonesty.

Respondent's contentions

Respondent essentially makes three arguments. First, he submits that the D.C. disciplinary system does not have jurisdiction over his conduct because it occurred in Ireland. Second, he argues that the Rules of Professional Conduct do not apply because he was not acting as a lawyer. Third, he argues that he did not “steal” from Fusco since he always intended to return the funds. For the following reasons, we agree with the Hearing Committee.

The BPR rejected each contention

The Committee correctly concluded that Respondent’s argument that the D.C. disciplinary system has no jurisdiction over his conduct in Ireland is contrary to the plain language of D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 1(a) (“All members of the District of Columbia Bar, . . . are subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of this Court and its Board on Professional Responsibility. . . .”) and Rule 8.5(a) (“A lawyer admitted to practice in this jurisdiction is subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction, regardless of where the lawyer’s conduct occurs.”).

...the Committee found that Respondent did act as an attorney in the matter. We agree with the Hearing Committee’s factual finding that he acted as an attorney because this finding is supported by “substantial evidence on the record as a whole.”

The BPR also recommends restitution and appends the Hearing Committee report to its 5-page recommendation. (Mike Frisch)

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