VIRGINIA:



BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD


IN THE MATTERS OF ANDREW IRA BECKER

VSB Docket No. 02-021-1191(Dammer)

VSB Docket No. 01-021-2730 (Desaulniers)

VSB Docket No. 01-021-1843 (Ducharme)

VSB Docket No. 02-021-2656 (Ferguson)

VSB Docket No. 03-021-0943 (Gasparini)

VSB Docket No. 03-021-1271 (VSB/Anon.)



ORDER OF SUSPENSION OF 120 DAYS WITH TERMS

These matters were certified to the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board ("Board") by the Second District Committee, Section I, and were set for hearing on October 23, 2003 before a duly convened panel. On October 16, 2003, these matters were presented for approval of an agreed disposition to a duly convened panel consisting of Robert L. Freed, Esquire, Chair, Mr. Chester J. Cahoon, Jr., Lay Member, Bruce T. Clark, Esquire, Peter A. Dingman, Esquire, and Robert E. Eicher, Esquire.

Pursuant to Virginia Supreme Court Rules of Court Part 6, Section IV, ¶ 13B5c., the Virginia State Bar, by Paul D. Georgiadis, Assistant Bar Counsel, and the Respondent, by counsel Michael L. Rigsby, entered into a proposed agreed disposition and presented it to the convened panel.

The Chair polled the panel members to determine whether any member had a personal or financial interest in this matter that might affect or reasonably be perceived to affect his or her ability to be impartial in this proceeding. Each member, including the Chair, verified that they had no conflicts.

 

VSB Docket No. 01-021-2730 (Desaulniers)


I. FINDINGS OF FACT

 

1. During all times relevant hereto, Andrew Ira Becker ("Respondent"), was an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

2. The Respondent was retained by Kenny A. Elazzeh to defend him and his commercial interests in a breach of contract and fraud action styled Hajeh v. Ellazzeh, filed on September 8, 1999 in the Portsmouth Circuit Court.

3. On or about February 9, 2000, plaintiff Hajeh served discovery consisting of Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents upon Respondent as counsel for Mr. Elazzeh.

4. On or about February 29, 2000, the deadline for answering and responding to said discovery, Respondent requested and received an extension from plaintiff's counsel until March 10, 2000. Notwithstanding a reminder letter dated March 27, 2000 to Respondent, Respondent failed to answer and respond.

5. On April 7, 2000, plaintiff's counsel filed a Motion to Compel discovery and set it for hearing on June 30, 2000. Notwithstanding the pending motion and scheduled hearing, Respondent failed to answer and respond to the discovery.

6. On June 29, 2000, Respondent requested and received a further extension on the discovery until July 14, 2000, provided Respondent waive all objections to the discovery as set forth in a tendered order. In spite of the offer of an extension, Respondent failed to endorse the tendered order and failed to answer and respond to the discovery.

7. On July 19, 2000, plaintiff's counsel filed a further Motion to Compel and Motion for Sanctions that requested, inter alia, relief that ". . . All allegations against the defendant for breach of contract . . . be deemed admitted."

8. On October 20, 2000, upon a hearing on plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery and Motion for Sanctions, the Portsmouth Circuit Court ordered Respondent to provide full and complete answers to the outstanding discovery within ten days and awarded sanctions against Respondent of attorney's fees of $450.00.

9. After Respondent failed to endorse a sketch order circulated by plaintiff's counsel on October 23, 2000, plaintiff's counsel filed a Motion to Enter Order and Motion for Sanctions on November 13, 2000 for failing to endorse the order and for Respondent's continued failure to provide answers and responses to the outstanding discovery. The motion further prayed that the plaintiff's allegations be deemed admitted, that defendant's defenses be stricken, and that judgment be entered for the plaintiff for the prayed for amount.

10. On December 29, 2000, the Court ordered that Respondent provide full and complete answers to the outstanding discovery on or before January 19, 2001, and that if plaintiff did not, "judgment shall be granted to the plaintiff for the ad damnum amount in the Motion for Judgment..." The Court found that Respondent "refuses to endorse circulated Orders including this Order; therefore, the Court finds that in the interest of justice it is necessary to modify and dispense with the requirements of Rule 1:13." The Court also awarded sanctions of $450.00 against the Respondent.

11. On January 23, 2001, plaintiff's counsel moved for an Order of Judgement for $686,000 based upon the Court's order of December 29, 2000 and Respondent's continued failure to supplement at all his discovery answers and responses.

12. On February 22, 2001, the Court entered judgement for plaintiff for $686,000, with Respondent neither filing a response nor appearing at the noticed hearing on February 22, 2001.

13. On June 28, 2001, the Court denied a motion to set aside the judgement filed on June 25,2001.

14. Thereafter, Respondent timely advised his professional liability insurance carrier of the default judgment suffered by his client. Respondent's professional liability carrier ultimately settled and paid-off the default judgment on behalf of Respondent's client, Mr. Elazzeh.

15. Throughout the pendency of this matter, Respondent's client, Mr. Elazzeh, was not kept informed of the status of this matter. Respondent failed to advise Mr. Elazzeh of pertinent facts and legal developments until after his case was prejudiced by judgement being entered against him. These developments included the long-pending and repeated threats of defenses being stricken and judgement being entered for failure to comply with discovery and the actual entry of the judgement. Moreover, Respondent failed to respond to Mr. Elazzeh's requests to Respondent for information.

II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT

The Board finds that such conduct on the part of the Respondent violates Rules 1.3(a)., Diligence, and 1.4 (a)., Communication.




VSB Docket No. 01-021-1843 (Ducharme)

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT


The Board finds that such conduct on the part of the Respondent violates Rules 1.4(a)., Communication, and 1.5(b)., Fees.

VSB Docket No. 02-021-2656 (Ferguson)

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT

The Board finds that such conduct on the part of the Respondent violates Rules 1.3(a)., Diligence, and 1.4(a)., Communication.



VSB Docket No. 03-021-0943 (Gasparini)

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

 

II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT

The Board finds that such conduct on the part of the Respondent violates Rules 1.3(A)., Diligence, 1.4(a)., Communication, and 1.15(a)., Safekeeping Property.

 

 

VSB Docket No. 03-021-1271 (VSB/Anon.)

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

1. During all times relevant hereto, Andrew Ira Becker ("Respondent"), was an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

License Report to Respondent's firm identifying the requirement to have and display a business license and of the Respondent's failure to do so.

II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT

The Board finds that such misconduct on the part of the Respondent violates Rule 8.4 (b)., Misconduct.

 

VSB Docket No. 02-021-1191(Dammer)


FINDINGS OF FACT



II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT

The Board finds that such conduct does not constitute misconduct under the Rules of Professional Conduct.



IMPOSITION OF SANCTION OF SUSPENSION OF
ONE-HUNDRED TWENTY (120) DAYS


The Board, having considered all evidence before it and having considered the nature of the Respondent's actions, and having considered the Respondent's disciplinary record, ORDERS pursuant to Part 6, Sec. IV, Para. 13I 2f.(d) of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court that the license of the Respondent, Andrew Ira Becker, to practice law in the Common-wealth of Virginia be, and the same is, hereby suspended for one-hundred twenty (120) days, effective December 1, 2003.

Pursuant to the terms of the parties' Agreed Disposition, it is further ORDERED that Respondent complete the following terms on or before March 31, 2004:

At his sole cost, Respondent shall engage VSB Risk Manager Janean Johnston to conduct an on-site audit and evaluation of Respondent's administrative and financial controls, including but not limited to trust-accounting, docket control, and conflicts of interest. Said engagement shall include the production of a report from Johnston with recommendations to be implemented. Said engagement shall further require Respondent to obtain written confirmation from Johnston, based upon her review and inspection of said administrative and financial controls, that Respondent has implemented such recommendations to Johnston's satisfaction. Respondent shall cause Johnston to forward to Assistant Bar Counsel Georgiadis a copy of her initial report as well as her final report regarding implementation of recommendations.

Upon satisfactory proof that such terms and conditions have been met, this matter shall be dismissed. If, however, the terms and conditions are not met by March 31, 2004, the Board shall impose a further suspension of 90 days, following a show cause hearing as to the Respondent's compliance with said terms. At such show cause hearing, the Respondent will have the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence.

It is further ORDERED that Respondent must comply with the requirements of Part 6, Section IV, Paragraph 13.M., of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The time for com-pliance with said requirements runs from December 1, 2003, the effective date of this Order. All issues concerning the adequacy of the notice and arrangements required by the Order shall be determined by the Board, unless Respondent timely demands the matter be adjudicated by a three judge circuit court panel. .

Pursuant to Part 6, Sec. IV, Para. 13.B.8.c. of the Rules, the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs.

It is further ORDERED that a copy teste of this Order shall be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the Respondent, Andrew Ira Becker, at Building 3300, Suite 115, 397 Little Neck Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452, his last address of record with the Virginia State Bar; by first class mail, postage prepaid, to his counsel of record, Michael L. Rigsby, Esquire, Carrell Rice & Rigsby, 7275 Glen Forest Drive, Forrest Plaza II, Suite 309, Richmond, VA 23226; and hand delivered to Paul D. Georgiadis, Assistant Bar Counsel, Virginia State Bar, Eighth & Main Building, Suite 1500, 707 East Main Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219- 2800.

Tracy J. Stroh, Chandler and Halasz, Inc., Court Reporters, P.O. Box 9349, Richmond, Virginia 23227, 804/730-1222, was the reporter for the hearing and transcribed the proceedings.

 

ENTERED this day of October, 2003.

VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD

By: _____________________________________ Robert L. Freed, Chair