VIRGINIA:


BEFORE THE FIFTH DISTRICT SECTION I SUBCOMMITTEE
OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR

 

IN THE MATTER OF KELLY RALSTON DENNIS, ESQUIRE

VSB Docket No. 02-051-0752

 

AGREED DISPOSITION

 

Pursuant to Part Six, § IV, ¶ 13(G)(1)(c) of the Rules of Virginia Supreme Court, the Virginia State Bar, by Senior Assistant Bar Counsel Noel D. Sengel, Esq., and the Respondent, Kelly Ralston Dennis, Esq., hereby enter into an Agreed Disposition arising out of the above-referenced matter.

 

Both parties affirm that the proposed Subcommittee Determination of a Public Reprimand with Terms, a true copy of which is attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference, reflects the stipulated facts, violations, and disposition for the above-referenced matter.

 

Respondent understands that should the Subcommittee accept this agreed disposition by unanimous vote, the Subcommittee Determination will be signed by the Chair or Chair Designate and thereafter mailed without the necessity of any hearing or further notice to the parties.  Further, it is understood and agreed by the parties hereto that should the Subcommittee refuse the agreed disposition neither party shall be bound by the stipulations or findings contained herein and this matter shall be forthwith scheduled for a hearing by the full Committee.

 

SEEN AND AGREED TO:

THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR

________________________

Noel D. Sengel

Assistant Bar Counsel

________________________

Kelly Ralston Dennis

Respondent

 

SUBCOMMITTEE ACTION

 

Pursuant to Part Six,  § IV, ¶ 13(G)(1)(c) of the Rules of Virginia Supreme Court, the duly convened subcommittee of the Fifth District Committee Section I of the Virginia State Bar hereby accepts the Agreed Disposition in this matter.

 

Date:  __________          _________________________________

 

Date:  __________          _________________________________

 

Date:  __________          _________________________________

 

 

VIRGINIA:

 

BEFORE THE FIFTH DISTRICT SECTION I SUBCOMMITTEE
OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR

 

IN THE MATTER OF KELLY RALSTON DENNIS, ESQUIRE
VSB Docket No. 02-051-0752

 

SUBCOMMITTEE DETERMINATION

PUBLIC REPRIMAND WITH TERMS

 

On the 7th day of January, 2004, a meeting in this matter was held before a duly convened a subcommittee of the Fifth District Committee Section I consisting of Stephen A. Wannall, Sean P. Kelly, Esq.,  and Richard J. Ruddy, Jr., Esq., presiding.

 

Pursuant to Part 6, § IV, ¶ 13(G)(1)(c) of the Rules of Virginia Supreme Court, a subcommittee of the Fifth District Committee Section I of the Virginia State Bar hereby serves upon the Respondent the following Public Reprimand with Terms:

 

I.  FINDINGS OF FACT

 

1.         At all times relevant hereto the Respondent, Kelly Ralston Dennis, Esq. (hereinafter the Respondent), has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

 

2.         The Complainant, Elizabeth Oram-Velesz, and her brother and sister hired the Respondent on January 30, 2001, to handle an estate matter.  The Complainant paid the Respondent $1,500.00 in advance fees that day.  On February 1, 2001, the Respondent deposited. the advance payment of fees into his attorney operating account.  At the end of February, 2001, the Complainant and her siblings fired the Respondent and asked for the case file to give to their new counsel.  When the Complainant got her case file, she noted that certain photographs of estate items which she believed she had provided the Respondent were not in the file.  She contacted the Respondent about them.  The Complainant stated that the Respondent informed her that the photographs had been misplaced because his firm had moved its office.  He stated he would locate them and return them to her.  He never did so.  The Complainant also requested an itemized accounting of the fees that the Respondent had earned, and a refund of any unused portion.  The Respondent never returned the photographs or provided an accounting of his fees earned.  He also stopped responding to the Complainant's attempts to contact him.  Thereafter, the Complainant filed a bar complaint.  The Respondent admits that he failed to provide an itemized billing, but states that he never kept the photographs in question.

 

3.         Beginning in October of 2002, Virginia State Bar investigator Robert K. Smith made several requests that the Respondent provide an itemized billing statement and copies of his billing records for the Complainant's case.  The Respondent did not respond.  The Bar issued a subpoena on April 10, 2003, with a return date of April 30, 2003, instructing the Respondent to provide copies of all his billing records and client file for the Complainant's case. The subpoena was served on the receptionist at the Respondent's office on April 15, 2003.  When the Respondent failed to appear in response to the subpoena on April 30, 2003, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel contacted him.  Senior Assistant Bar Counsel gave the Respondent until May 6, 2003 to come to the Bar's office with the required records.

 

4.         The Respondent came to the Bar office on May 6, 2003, with no itemized billing statement, time sheets, ledger cards, bank records or file for the Complainant's case.  The Respondent did produce a typed list he had prepared for the meeting noting the services he performed for the Complainant and the dates those services were provided, but it failed to indicate how many hours were worked on any of the tasks.  When this was pointed out to the Respondent, he wrote by hand the amount of time he estimated he had spent on the Complainant's case on each date on the list.

 

5.         When asked why he had no billing records for the Complainant's case, the Respondent stated that he records the time he spends on each client's case on the front of each case file.  He had no records of the Complainant's case because he had given her the case file.  The Respondent also stated that he had no trust account deposit records because he had deposited his fee into his operating account when received because he had already earned it.

 

II.  NATURE OF MISCONDUCT

 

The Subcommittee finds that the following Rules of Professional Conduct have been violated:

 

RULE 1.5   Fees

(b)       The lawyer's fee shall be adequately explained to the client. When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the amount, basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated to the client, preferably in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation.

RULE 1.15 Safekeeping Property

(a)        All funds received or held by a lawyer or law firm on behalf of a client, other than reimbursement of advances for costs and expenses, shall be deposited in one or more identifiable escrow accounts maintained at a financial institution in the state in which the law office is situated and no funds belonging to the lawyer or law firm shall be deposited therein except as follows:

(1) funds reasonably sufficient to pay service or other charges or fees imposed by the financial institution may be deposited therein; or

(2) funds belonging in part to a client and in part presently or potentially to the lawyer or law firm must be deposited therein, and the portion belonging to the lawyer or law firm must be withdrawn promptly after it is due unless the right of the lawyer or law firm to receive it is disputed by the client, in which event the disputed portion shall not be withdrawn until the dispute is finally resolved.

 

RULE 8.1 Bar Admission And Disciplinary Matters

 

An applicant for admission to the bar, or a lawyer in connection with a bar admission application, in connection with any certification required to be filed as a condition of maintaining or renewing a license to practice law, in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not:

(c)        fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority, except that this Rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6; or

 

III.  PUBLIC REPRIMAND WITH TERMS

 

Accordingly, it is the decision of the Subcommittee to offer the Respondent an opportunity to comply with certain terms and conditions, compliance with which by March 1, 2004, shall be a predicate for the disposition of this complaint by imposition of a Public Reprimand with Terms.  The terms and conditions which shall be met by April 1, 2004 are:

 

1.         The Respondent shall engage the services of law office management consultant Janean S. Johnston, 250 South Reynolds Street, #710, Alexandria, Virginia 22304-4421, (703) 567-0088, no later than March 1, 2004 to review and make written recommendations concerning the Respondent's law practice policies, methods, systems, and procedures.  The Respondent shall institute and thereafter follow with consistency any and all recommendations made to her by Ms. Johnston following her evaluation of the Respondent's practice.  The Respondent shall grant Ms. Johnston access to his law practice from time to time, at her request, for purposes of ensuring that Respondent has instituted and is complying with Ms. Johnston's recommendations.  The Virginia State Bar shall have access (by way of telephone conferences and/or written reports) to Ms. Johnston's findings and recommendations, as well as her assessment of the Respondent's level of compliance with her recommendations.  Respondent shall be obligated to pay when due Ms. Johnston's fees and costs for her services (including provision to the Bar of information concerning this matter) in a maximum aggregate amount no greater than $1,500.00.  Respondent will have discharged his obligations respecting the terms contained in this Paragraph 1 if he has fulfilled and remained in compliance with all of the terms contained herein through January 1, 2005.

 

Upon satisfactory proof that the above noted terms and conditions have been met, a Public Reprimand with Terms shall then be imposed.  If, however, Ms. Johnston has not been hired by March 1, 2004 and/or the other terms and conditions have not been met by January 1, 2005, this matter shall be certified to the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board upon an agreed stipulation of facts and misconduct as the facts and misconduct are set forth herein for the sole purpose of the imposition of a sanction deemed appropriate by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board.

 

FIFTH DISTRICT SECTION I SUBCOMMITTEE
OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR

 

By __________________________________
Richard J. Ruddy, Jr.

 

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

 

I certify that I have this _____ day of _______________________, 2004, mailed a true and correct copy of the Subcommittee Determination (Public Reprimand with Terms) by CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, to the Respondent, Kelly Ralston Dennis, Esq., at 6723 Whittier Avenue, Suite 302, McLean, VA  22101, his last address of record with the Virginia State Bar.

 

_______________________________________
Noel D. Sengel