Thursday, June 16, 2022

Innumerable Untruths

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has disbarred an attorney

Both the Hearing Committee and the Board recommend that we disbar Mr. O’Neill. We agree that his intentional misappropriation of Mr. Fusco’s funds alone justifies disbarment. We further agree that his dishonesty is an independent reason why he cannot remain a member of the D.C. Bar. Over the years Mr. O’Neill has told innumerable untruths to Mr. Fusco, Mark Walsh (the solicitor who attempted to help Mr. Fusco reclaim his funds in Irish court), the High Court of Ireland, the  Hearing Committee, and the Board regarding whether he had transferred the funds to his client, why he had not done so, and where the funds were. Mr. O’Neill has admitted at various points that his representations were untrue, and then turned around and told new falsehoods. If his dishonesty does not qualify as flagrant, then nothing does. To allow him to remain a member of our bar in light of his demonstrated indifference to truth-telling would demean bar membership.

The court rejected the argument that it lacked jurisdiction

Mr. O’Neill’s jurisdictional argument is irreconcilable with the plain text of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In return for the privilege of D.C. Bar membership, all members agree to conform their conduct to the Rules of Professional Conduct “regardless of where [that] conduct occurs.” D.C. R. Prof. Conduct 8.5(a)...

The D.C. Bar’s jurisdiction arises from consensual covenant, not geographic location.

Respondent claimed he was not acting as an attorney in misappropriating entrusted funds

Here, the record conclusively establishes that Mr. Fusco hired Mr. O’Neill—who held himself out as an attorney on his letterhead—to act as his attorney. Mr. Fusco learned about Mr. O’Neill from his brother, for whom Mr. O’Neill had done legal work in Ireland. Mr. O’Neill gave Mr. Fusco legal advice about the negotiations regarding the sale of his share of his company, which were governed by Irish law; referred to Mr. Fusco as his client to other attorneys; ultimately received the proceeds of the sale of Mr. Fusco’s interest in his company (some of which he moved to an IOLTA account which is supposed to be used solely to hold entrusted funds, see supra note 1, only because he was Mr. Fusco’s legal representative during the mediation; and charged Mr. Fusco legal fees for his representation.


The circumstantial evidence of Mr. O’Neill’s larcenous intent is overwhelming. He failed to pay Mr. Fusco when Mr. Fusco repeatedly asked for his money. He failed to pay Mr. Fusco when the High Court of Ireland ordered him to do so (and fled Ireland after the court found him in contempt and sentenced him to twenty-eight days of imprisonment). He failed to pay Mr. Fusco after disciplinary proceedings were commenced against him. And, all along, he told one falsehood after another about where Mr. Fusco’s funds were and why he could not return them. Mr. O’Neill’s six years of inaction and deceit provide ample basis for us to conclude that, when he took Mr. Fusco’s money, he committed the crime of larceny under New York law and violated Rule 8.4(b).

Don't let the doorknob hit ya

Moreover, Mr. O’Neill may not be reinstated until he pays Mr. Fusco full restitution  plus interest, as well as the costs of litigating this action in Ireland.

Associate Judge Easterly authored the unanimous opinion. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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