Wednesday, December 6, 2023
An Ad Hoc District of Columbia Hearing Committee has recommended a partially-stayed suspension and probation for an attorney who represented a client in a lawsuit against Steve Harvey and the Steve Harvey Show.
The committee did not follow Disciplinary Counsel's recommendation for a showing of fitness.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on the suit
A single mom and fitness model claims she felt sexually harassed as a guest on Steve Harvey's talk show.
The woman, Dominique Collier, was invited to a taping of an episode of "Steve Harvey" in 2016 after responding to a casting call for "single professional women who like to show off their looks" and claims she left there feeling sexually harassed, TMZ reported.
She says that Harvey, 61, and the show's producers made her change out of her tasteful outfit and into a halter top and form-fitting skirt before asking the audience to vote on her looks.
The audience's responses included the names: "whore," "slut," "ratchet" and "daddy issues," according to the suit obtained by TMZ.
After the taping in front of a live audience, Collier fired off a cease and desist letter asking the poll to be removed before the show aired on television.
Producers did oblige, but she claims the damage was already done.
Collier said in the suit that she felt humiliated and demeaned and was crying backstage when Harvey walked up to her and handed her the clothes she had arrived in — including her bra and undergarments, according to the gossip site.
She is suing the show's production company Endemol Shine and NBC for at least $2 million.
A spokesperson for "Steve Harvey" and NBC did not immediately respond to a Daily News request for comment.
The suit was filed in California; Respondent sought pro hac vice admission and asserted she did not reside in California
After learning that Respondent had a California address, Counsel for Harvey then investigated Respondent and “discovered that [Respondent] held herself out as a Los Angeles or Hollywood attorney on her website and on social media . . . .” DX 11 at 3 (Stipulated Facts in Amended Petition). Respondent’s website also included a “Michael Smith” as an attorney in her firm. Tr. 156 (Respondent); DX 11 at 3. No such Michael Smith existed, however. See DX 11 at 5. Counsel for Harvey filed an opposition to Respondent’s pro hac vice application on the basis that she was ineligible because “she had helopposition which included Respondent’s declaration, which falsely claimed the facts for Michael Smith were from a Word Press template, when in fact, the information in the profile had been copied from Michael Kernan’s background. Id. at 4-5. The California Court denied the pro hac vice application because of concerns about Respondent’s credibility and honesty. Id. at 6.
Harvey did eventually settle with Ms. Collier. DX 11 at 6. [Local counsel] Ms. Bryner advised Respondent that Ms. Collier would be paying her fees as opposed to Ms. Bryner forwarding her a portion of the settlement funds. Tr. 139 (Respondent).
The client filed a bar complaint that led to a negotiated disposition but issues led to new charges.
Specifcally, in litigation between them, Respondent pled that the bar complaint had been dismissed as "unsubstantiated"
The essence of Respondent’s defense is that because she perceives that none of the specific allegations in Ms. Collier’s Bar complaint were included in the original Specifications of Charges, they were “unsubstantiated.” She argues that her pro hac vice application was denied due to the admitted misinformation in her website and the Court’s concern about her credibility related to the website –issues not raised in any of the allegations in Ms. Collier’s Bar complaint. She claims that saying a matter is “dismissed” means “that someone is no longer moving forward with it.” Tr. 84 (Respondent). She further argues that the failure to include Ms. Collier’s specific allegations in the Amended Petition for Negotiated Discipline must mean that they were dismissed. During the hearing, Respondent acknowledged that she had never received a dismissal letter from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel regarding Ms. Collier’s complaint, and that the Amended Petition for Negotiated Disposition she had agreed to did not state that Ms. Collier’s complaint was dismissed. Tr. 78-79 (Respondent).
Respondent’s conduct in stating that Ms. Collier “filed a Bar complaint that was later dismissed because it was unsubstantiated,” was a knowing false statement to the Superior Court and thus violated Rule 3.3(a)(1).
In this case, Disciplinary Counsel has asked the Hearing Committee to recommend the sanction of a one-year suspension with a fitness requirement. Respondent has requested that the Hearing Committee recommend public censure or informal admonition. For the reasons described below, we recommend the sanction of a six-month suspension, with 90 days stayed in favor of one year of unsupervised probation. We recommend that Respondent not be required to report her probation status to clients, but we include a condition that Respondent not commit any ethical rule violations during the entire period of probation.