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DC Circuit Devotes a Day to Reciprocal Attorney Discipline

Themis and gavel
By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 28, 2019 6:00 AM

When it comes to attorney discipline, lawyers do not want to get caught straddling the fence. Bad things can happen there.

We're not talking about the line between ethical and unethical conduct. Good attorneys know to stay far away from that line.

The fence is between jurisdictions, like Maryland and Washington D.C. Lots of lawyers practice in both jurisdictions, and it can make a big difference where you fall in attorney discipline.

Two Jurisdictions

In one recent case, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 60-day suspension against an attorney for mishandling funds. The attorney was found to have negligently misappropriated funds, commingled personal and entrusted funds, and committed other ethical violations.

While the D.C. Circuit imposed the discipline, the case originated from Maryland. Yoland M. Thomson had an office in the state, but she was not licensed to practice there. In addition to the other issues, the state bar's grievance commission found she engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

The financial problems stemmed from complaints about relatively small amounts of money, such as checks from clients for $200 and $300. Thompson also deposited personal checks into her trust account, including "numerous deposits" totaling $7,563.09. On one occasion, her trust account went negative $63.49. She also withdrew "interest in the amount of $.046, to which she as not entitled," the commission said.

Reporting on the case, the Legal Profession Blog noted that the cross-over from Maryland to D.C. "often leads to reduced D.C. sanctions for conduct involving dishonesty." In D.C., attorneys face mandatory, minimum six-month suspensions for negligent misappropriation. In Maryland, not so much.

Reciprocal Matters

It was a busy for the D.C. Circuit, which issued six discipline decisions. Several involved reciprocal matters.

In one case, the appeals court accepted an 18-month suspension by consent in a matter from Virginia. Jean M. Robinson admitted that she violated rules against revealing client confidences and acting with dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

As a condition of reinstatement, the attorney agreed to prove her fitness to practice law. In Virginia. Which has reciprocity with DC.

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