Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 26

Charles continued cooperating with the investigation after relocating to
Washington, D.C., determined to put the ordeal behind him. "My purpose in
becoming a lawyer was to stabilize my career," says Charles, who was licensed
in both the jurisdiction where he was facing charges and in the District of
Columbia.
"I pled guilty to one count. Then there were two very lengthy trials in which
I testified and cooperated in the investigation," he says. "To go through the
criminal process, and then have [my career] taken away from me, [made]
life even more stressful because the stability that I'd hoped for wasn't there
anymore." Charles removed his name from the master roll of attorneys in
that jurisdiction.
As a result of his criminal conviction, Charles was also disbarred by the D.C.
Court of Appeals in 2006. He has since been reinstated to the practice of law in
both his original jurisdiction and the District of Columbia. "I think I've been able
to show people that the issues that led to the criminal situation were an aberration," Charles says. "They took place a very long time ago. I think that came out
in the decision by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel."
At some point after losing his license, Charles attended a conference where he
heard a speaker talk about his experiences as a cooperating witness, willing to
testify about his own mistakes. That inspired Charles to start speaking publicly
about his own experience with the attorney discipline system.
Soon after, Charles befriended an attorney who did presentations to law students
about legal ethics and white-collar crime investigations. Charles joined forces with
that attorney and started giving personalized, cautionary-tale-type lectures.
"[The presentations] were not intended as some sort of a gimmick to get my
license back. But I think both jurisdictions saw my sincerity," Charles says. "They
started out as community service as part of my sentence, but I have continued
doing the presentations for several years. It's been a great experience."

KNOW THE RULES
Not all crimes lead to disbarment or suspension, but in Charles' case, mail fraud
constituted a "crime of moral turpitude," which loosely means the crime was
vile or intentionally evil. The long list of crimes of moral turpitude includes tax
evasion, forgery, bribery, kidnapping, murder, and rape.
A more common reason for suspension or disbarment among D.C. Bar
members, however, is negligent, reckless, or intentional commingling or misappropriation of funds. D.C. Bar legal ethics counsel Hope C. Todd says lawyers
tend to get into the most trouble when safekeeping a client's property.
"There are very strict ethical and technical requirements about how lawyers
are to keep clients' money and property," Todd explains. "You need to keep
very good records when you're moving money around. Good accounting
records ensure that the lawyer's money stays separate from the client's
money, and the client's money remains protected. If you receive a settlement
check and it has your name on it and the client's name on it, it's shared
money; it must go into the trust account. And the client needs to be told that
you've received the money."
Todd is one of three attorneys in the D.C. Bar Department of Regulation Counsel
who staff the Bar's Legal Ethics Helpline, a confidential, proactive service
designed to assist lawyers in complying with the ethics rules.
Todd and fellow ethics counsel Saul Jay Singer and Erika Stillabower provide
informal, nonbinding advice to Bar members via telephone or email about their
ethical obligations under the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.
"I think we are on track to handle 2,700 calls from lawyers this fiscal year," Todd says.

26 WASHINGTON LAWYER

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JUNE 2019

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A more common reason for suspension or
disbarment among D.C. Bar members is
negligent, reckless, or intentional commingling
or misappropriation of funds.
The Bar's Legal Ethics Committee, composed of 11 D.C. Bar members and four
nonlawyer professionals, handles some of the most challenging ethical questions that have yet to be addressed in the rules, opinions, disciplinary cases, or
court cases. "[The committee] issues between one to six ethics opinions a year,
addressing those questions that we don't already have an opinion on," Todd
says. "The committee has issued 376 formal opinions since the late 1970s. The
older opinions interpreted the Code of Professional Responsibility that was
replaced by the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct effective January 1, 1991,
but many of those older opinions still provide good guidance because much
of the language and requirements of the Code were adopted in the Rules."
According to Todd, many questions posed to the Legal Ethics Helpline
revolve around potential conflicts of interest, communication with opposing
parties, mandatory reporting requirements, and lawyer-client confidentiality.
Occasionally, the helpline will receive a question in a more unsettled area,
such as a lawyer providing legal assistance to those in the cannabis industry.

MAKING YOUR WAY BACK
A suspension is less severe than disbarment, and the period of suspension can
vary from a few months to several years, depending on the seriousness of the
offense. The period for disbarment is five years minimum.
"The terms of your suspension dictate what needs to happen before you can
get your license back," says Dan Schumack of Schumack Ryals PLLC, who served
for six years on a hearing committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility
and who has represented attorneys going through the disciplinary process.
"Some suspensions say that you are suspended for X number [of] months or
years with a condition of you proving your fitness to practice before you can
get your license back," Schumack says. He notes, however, that most D.C. Bar
members who get suspended do not have a fitness requirement.
When a lawyer gets suspended or disbarred, that person must inform all his
or her clients, then cease all existing work as a licensed attorney.
D.C. Bar resources such as the Legal Ethics Helpline are essential to help attorneys stay within the ethical lines in their practice and avoid situations that could
lead to discipline.
Since leaving his government job, Charles has worked with the same organization that he joined 17 years ago. "They hired me with a full understanding
of my status. They were very supportive of my efforts through the criminal
process," Charles says.
When seeking reinstatement, Charles recommends that disbarred attorneys
do some considerable soul searching. "There was basically an investigation into
everything, including my finances, credit, and everything else imaginable,"
Charles recalls. "You have to be prepared for a very thorough process. But if you
have really made an effort to put your mistakes behind you and show that [the
offense] was at a different time in your life, then I think it's something that you
should consider doing because there is a path to returning to the profession."


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Washington Lawyer - June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - June 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Meet Susan M. Hoffman: 48th President of the D.c. Bar
Regulation Counsel: Ensuring the Highest Ethical Standards
Disciplinary Counsel: Acting on Misconduct Charges
Life After Disciplinary Action
Bar Business: Budget Report
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Rule Updates: Rule 49 on Pro Bono Attorneys
Disciplinary Summaries
Special Coverage: 2019 Judicial & Bar Conference
Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Meet Susan M. Hoffman: 48th President of the D.c. Bar
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Regulation Counsel: Ensuring the Highest Ethical Standards
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 18
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Disciplinary Counsel: Acting on Misconduct Charges
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Life After Disciplinary Action
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-4
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-5
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-6
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Bar Business: Budget Report
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Rule Updates: Rule 49 on Pro Bono Attorneys
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Special Coverage: 2019 Judicial & Bar Conference
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 48
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover4
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