V I R G I N I A:



BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD



IN THE MATTER OF

ELLEN FRANCES ERICSSON, ESQUIRE

VSB Docket Numbers 02-053-0134

02-053-0916

02-053-4028

03-053-0618

04-000-0458 (CRESPA VIOLATIONS)



O R D E R


This matter came on December 8, 2003, to be heard on the Agreed Disposition of the Virginia State Bar and the Respondent, based upon the Certification of a Fifth District-Section III Subcommittee and the Notice of Violations of the Virginia Consumer Real Estate Settlement Protection Act ("CRESPA") and Virginia State Bar Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Agreed Disposition was considered by a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board consisting of V. Max Beard, lay member, James L. Banks, Esquire, Bruce Clark, Esquire, Peter A. Dingman, Esquire, and Robert L. Freed, Esquire, Second Vice Chair presiding.

Seth M. Guggenheim, Esquire, representing the Bar, the Respondent, Ellen Frances Ericsson, Esquire, and her counsel, Cary S. Greenberg and Daniel S. Schumack, Esquire, presented an endorsed Agreed Disposition, dated December 8, 2003, reflecting the terms of the Agreed Disposition. The court reporter for the proceeding was Dorothy J. Lewis, Chandler & Halasz, P.O. Box 9349 Richmond, Virginia, telephone (804) 730-1222.

Having considered the Certification, the aforesaid Notice of Violations, and the Agreed Disposition, it is the decision of the Board that the Agreed Disposition be accepted, and the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board finds by clear and convincing evidence as follows:

1. At all times relevant hereto, Ellen Frances Ericsson, Esquire (hereafter "Respondent"), has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, although not at all times in good standing.

As to VSB Docket No. 02-053-0134:

2. On April 25, 2001, the Respondent conducted a residential real estate refinance settlement for Edward J. Schiess and Elaine Schiess (hereafter "Complainants").

3. Contained among the lender's instructions to the Respondent was the requirement that she "provide [to the lender a] copy of renewed hazard insurance policy with paid receipt."

4. Respondent did not withhold any funds at closing with which to renew the existing hazard insurance policy. Neither the lender whose loan was being refinanced nor the new lender paid the insurance premium from their respective loan escrow accounts, and, as a consequence thereof, the Complainants received a notice of cancellation from their insurance company on or about June 1, 2001, advising them that their policy would be canceled on or about June 19, 2001.

5. Following the Complainants' receipt of the notice of cancellation, Complainant Elaine F. Schiess contacted Respondent's office, but was dissatisfied with the response received. Ms. Schiess thereafter investigated the circumstances herself, and procured a copy of the lender's settlement instructions from the lender. Ms. Schiess then attempted, via telephone calls and letters, to have the Respondent address the issue, but the Respondent failed to communicate with the Complainants thereafter.

6. On August 3, 2001, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to Respondent, enclosing a Complaint filed by the Complainants in this matter, and stating, inter alia, in bold and underlined text, the following: "please review the complaint and provide this office with a written answer, including an original and one copy of your response and all attached exhibits, within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this letter." The Respondent failed to file a written response to the Complaint with the Bar as required by the said letter, either within twenty-one (21) days, or at any time thereafter.

As to VSB Docket No. 02-053-0916:

7. On May 31, 2001, the Respondent conducted a settlement for a residential real estate sale, wherein Jeffrey R. Bourne and Kristin M. Bourne (hereafter "Complainants") were the sellers.

8. The Complainants relocated from Virginia to Texas in advance of the real estate settlement, and had authorized the Respondent to execute settlement documents on their behalf. 9. On August 27, 2001, the Virginia State Bar received a Complaint from the Complainants alleging, inter alia, that despite promises made to them by the Respondent's personnel, no final documentation from the May settlement transaction had been forwarded to them and funds due them from a settlement tax escrow had not been wired to their bank account by the Respondent. The Complainants also alleged that telephone messages left at Respondent's office had not been returned since mid-July, 2001.

10. On September 13, 2001, Virginia State Bar intake counsel sent a letter to the Respondent requesting that she communicate with the Complainants and answer their questions about the status of their matter, and that she inform the Bar in writing of the action taken. Intake counsel further indicated that a resolution of the matter would avoid the necessity of the Bar's opening a formal ethics inquiry.

11. Having received no response from Respondent to the September 13, 2001, letter, intake counsel directed yet another letter to Respondent on September 27, 2001, asking for a response within five (5) days following that date, indicating that it would be "highly likely" that an active investigation file would be opened in the event Respondent did not respond to the Bar.

12. The Respondent did not respond to intake counsel's September 27, 2001, letter and an active investigation file was opened and assigned to Bar Counsel. On October 12, 2001, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to Respondent, enclosing the Complaint, and stating, inter alia, in bold and underlined text, the following: "please review the complaint and provide this office with a written answer, including an original and one copy of your response and all attached exhibits, within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this letter." The Respondent failed to file a written response to the Complaint with the Bar as required by the said letter, either within twenty-one (21) days, or at any time thereafter.

13. The Virginia State Bar conducted an investigation of the Complaint filed in this matter. Inter alia, the investigation revealed that:

a. At the time of the real estate settlement, the Respondent escrowed the sum of $1,033.76 otherwise due the Complainants as proceeds of sale, pending verification from Prince William County, Virginia, that real estate taxes for the first half of 2001 had been paid.

b. Complainant Kristin Bourne asserts that she spoke by phone to a staff member in Respondent's office on or about July 15, 2001, and was informed that verification had been received that the real estate taxes had been paid, and that the sums withheld at settlement by the Respondent would be wired to the Complainants.

c. On August 9, 2001, Respondent's personnel signed for a certified letter sent to Respondent by the Complainant Jeffrey Bourne expressing dissatisfaction that the sums withheld at settlement for real estate taxes were never wired to the Complainants, as promised, and that the settlement documents had never been sent. The letter also informed the Respondent that the Complainants had placed approximately 15 calls to the Respondent's office over the prior three months, with only three calls having been returned.

d. The Complainants had still not received from the Respondent the settlement documents and aforesaid escrowed sales proceeds from the May 31, 2001, settlement as of September 11, 2002, when a Virginia State Bar investigator conducted a telephone interview with Complainant Kristin Bourne.

14. During the course of investigating this, and the other matters set forth herein, the Virginia State Bar determined that Respondent's license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia was suspended on October 15, 2001, for her failure to comply with Paragraphs 11, 18 and/or 19, of Part Six, Section IV, of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and that she personally signed for the certified mail notice from the Virginia State Bar issued on that date advising of her of such suspension. The suspension of Respondent's license continued until November 8, 2001, when her license to practice law was reinstated.

15. Notwithstanding the said suspension, the Respondent continued to perform real estate sale and refinance settlement transactions, wherein she performed services, such as the preparation of deeds and legal instruments. Between October 17, 2001, and November 8, 2001, inclusive, the Respondent performed at least (19) such transactions, and she identified each one by name, file number, and transaction type to a Virginia State Bar investigator.

As to VSB Docket No.02-053-4028:

16. On June 26, 2002, the Virginia State Bar received a Complaint from Ms. Brooke Snyder (hereafter "Complainant"), a real estate agent, alleging that two contractors had not been paid nominal amounts due them from Respondent, as settlement agent, from the proceeds of a residential real estate sale which settled on April 18, 2002.

17. On July 1, 2002, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to Respondent, enclosing the Complaint, and stating, inter alia, in bold text, the following: "please review the complaint and provide a written answer, including an original and one copy of your response and all attached exhibits, within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this letter." The Respondent failed to file a written response to the Complaint with the Bar as required by the said letter, either within twenty-one (21) days, or at any time thereafter.

18. Prior to the time the Complaint in this matter was filed, the Respondent and her staff failed to respond to Complainant's repeated inquiries concerning the status of the payments due the contractors. A member of Respondent's staff did, however, incorrectly inform the Complainant on June 18, 2002, that new checks had been mailed to the contractors on June 12, 2002, and that stop payments had been issued against checks earlier mailed to, but not received, by the contractors.

19. The investigation conducted by the Virginia State Bar revealed that no checks were issued to the contractors on June 12, 2002. As of the time a Virginia State Bar investigator interviewed the Respondent on August 14, 2002, the Respondent's records reflected that she issued a check to one contractor on June 26, 2002, and that no "replacement" check had been issued to the second contractor. On August 14, 2002, the Respondent issued a check to the second contractor from the proceeds of a settlement that had been conducted on April 18, 2002.

20. During the course of the investigation of this, and the other matters contained herein, the Virginia State Bar determined that the Respondent had failed to transmit, for a period of weeks following the settlement, that portion of the available settlement proceeds required to pay off a seller's (Jim Uphoff's) residential mortgage loan.

As to VSB Docket No. 03-053-0618:

21. On August 30, 2002, the Virginia State Bar received a Complaint from Mr. John S. Williamson (hereafter "Complainant") concerning Respondent's failure to attend to certain post-settlement obligations related to the settlement of a real estate sales transaction which Respondent conducted on October 8, 2001.

22. On September 11, 2002, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to Respondent, enclosing the Complaint, and stating, inter alia, in bold text, the following: "please review the complaint and provide a written answer, including an original and one copy of your response and all attached exhibits, within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this letter." The Respondent failed to file a written response to the Complaint with the Bar as required by the said letter, either within twenty-one (21) days, or at any time thereafter.

23. As of the time he filed his Complaint, the Complainant had not received from the Respondent the owner's real estate title insurance policy which he had purchased at settlement and the original, recorded, deed to his property. The Complainant began calling Respondent's office in April of 2002, in an effort to secure the documents due him, and he received inaccurate information and unfulfilled promises from Respondent's staff. The Complainant was informed that the Respondent was unavailable to take his calls, and she at no time returned any of Complainant's calls, despite his specific requests that the Respondent return his calls.

24. A Virginia State Bar investigator interviewed the Respondent on September 24, 2002, and asked her why she did not return the Complainant's calls and speak with him directly. The Respondent answered by stating that she does not return calls because she does not have the time.

25. As of the time of the Respondent's interview by the investigator on September 24, 2002, nearly one year following the real estate settlement, the Respondent had still not forwarded the owner's title insurance policy and the recorded deed to the Complainant. It was not until September 27, 2002, that the Complainant received those documents from the Respondent. The record shows that the deed was timely recorded, and that the owner's title insurance policy was issued retroactive to the closing date.

As to VSB Docket No. 04-000-0458 (CRESPA VIOLATIONS):

26. The Respondent's license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia was administratively suspended on October 15, 2001, for her failure to pay dues, certify the status of professional liability insurance, and comply with continuing legal education requirements, pursuant to Paragraphs 11, 18 and/or 19, of Part Six, Section IV, of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. She personally signed for the certified mail notice from the Virginia State Bar issued on that date advising her of such suspension. The suspension of Respondent's license continued until November 8, 2001, when her license to practice law was reinstated.

27. As of the date of Respondent's law license suspension, she was duly registered as a "Registered Real Estate Settlement Agent" under CRESPA, and had been so registered since January 4, 2001.

28. Respondent's registration as a real estate settlement agent had been granted to her under CRESPA, and the Regulations promulgated thereunder, based on her status as an active member of the Virginia State Bar in good standing. When her license to practice law was suspended, as aforesaid, her eligibility to continue in the capacity of a real estate settlement agent terminated.

29. Accordingly, on October 17, 2001, the Director of Membership of the Virginia State Bar sent a certified letter to the Respondent, which stated as follows:

Pursuant to the suspension of your Virginia law license, your CRESPA file has been closed effective October 15, 2001. You cannot lawfully conduct residential real estate closings after this date.

If you should start performing escrow, closing, or settlement services, you must re-register as a settlement agent under CRESPA.

30. The Respondent personally accepted the October 17, 2001, letter from the Director of Membership, and signed the certified mail receipt therefor on October 25, 2001. The Respondent did not re-register as a real estate settlement agent under CRESPA until August 22, 2002. The Respondent asserts that she assumed that reinstatement of her law license on November 8, 2001, automatically reinstated her CRESPA registration.

31. Despite the cancellation of her CRESPA registration and her personal receipt of a letter from the Virginia State Bar stating that she could not lawfully conduct residential real estate closings after October 15, 2001, until she had re-registered under CRESPA as a settlement agent, the Respondent nonetheless continued to conduct residential real estate settlements as a settlement agent between October 25, 2001, and August 22, 2002. The Respondent conducted a significant number of residential real estate closings as a real estate settlement agent during the period when she was not registered as required under CRESPA and the Regulations promulgated thereunder.

32. The Respondent continued to perform residential real estate sale and refinance settlement transactions as an attorney settlement agent during the period of her aforesaid Virginia law license suspension. Between October 17, 2001, and November 8, 2001, inclusive, the Respondent performed at least nineteen (19) such transactions, and she identified each one by name, file number, and transaction type to a Virginia State Bar investigator.

33. On May 31, 2001, the Respondent conducted a settlement for a residential real estate sale, wherein Jeffrey R. Bourne and Kristin M. Bourne were the sellers.

34. At the time of the real estate settlement, the Respondent escrowed the sum of $1,033.76 otherwise due the Bournes as proceeds of sale, pending verification from Prince William County, Virginia, that real estate taxes for the first half of 2001 had been paid.

35. The Respondent failed to timely disburse the Bournes' escrowed proceeds to them. The Bournes had still not received from the Respondent the escrowed sales proceeds from the May 31, 2001, settlement as of September 11, 2002, when a Virginia State Bar investigator conducted a telephone interview with Kristin M. Bourne.

36. On April 18, 2002, the Respondent acted as settlement agent in the settlement of a residential real estate sale of property located in Virginia. The Respondent was not registered under CRESPA, as required, at the time of the settlement. On June 26, 2002, the Virginia State Bar received a Complaint from Ms. Brooke Snyder, a real estate agent, alleging that two contractors had not been paid sums due them from Respondent, as settlement agent, from the proceeds of the said settlement.

37. Prior to the time Ms. Snyder complained to the Bar, the Respondent and her staff failed to respond to Ms. Snyder's repeated inquiries concerning the status of the payments due the contractors. A member of Respondent's staff did, however, incorrectly inform the Complainant on June 18, 2002, that new checks had been mailed to the contractors on June 12, 2002, and that stop payments had been issued against checks earlier mailed to, but not received, by the contractors.

38. The investigation conducted by the Virginia State Bar revealed that no checks were issued to the contractors on June 12, 2002. As of the time a Virginia State Bar investigator

interviewed the Respondent on August 14, 2002, the Respondent's records reflected that she issued a check to one contractor on June 26, 2002, and that no "replacement" check had been issued to the second contractor. On August 14, 2002, the Respondent issued a check to the second contractor from the proceeds of a settlement that had been conducted on April 18, 2002.

39. During the course of the investigation of this, and the other matters contained herein, the Virginia State Bar determined that the Respondent had failed to transmit, for a period of weeks following the settlement, that portion of the available settlement proceeds required to pay off a seller's (Jim Uphoff's) residential mortgage loan.

40. During the course of investigations related to matters contained herein, the Virginia State Bar investigator was presented with a copy of a letter to the Respondent dated July 8, 2002, from a representative of the Chicago Title Insurance Company. The letter stated that the title insurance company had "received a few calls recently from mortgage companies and brokers because they did not receive funds in accordance with the lender's instructions." The letter also stated that when the representative visited the Respondent's office what he found "was an operation in great need of organization and additional staff." The letter identified "issues" that "must be resolved in the near future" as follows:



The Respondent was not registered under CRESPA at the time the title insurance company representative visited her office and wrote her the aforesaid letter concerning the unsatisfactory conditions referred to therein.

41. The Respondent submitted a certification to the Virginia State Bar on January 4, 2001, wherein she sought an exemption from the CRESPA requirement that she obtain a blanket fidelity bond or an employee dishonesty insurance policy covering employees or the legal entity in which she practiced. To obtain such an exemption, the Respondent certified that she had "no employees other than [herself] or other licensed owner(s), partner(s), shareholder(s), or member(s) of the legal entity in which [she] practice[d]." The Respondent was granted the exemption on the basis of her certification.

42. Between January 4, 2001, and August 22, 2002, when the Respondent re-registered with CRESPA, as aforesaid, the Respondent hired employees to perform services on her behalf in her capacity as settlement agent, without so informing the Virginia State Bar that she was no longer eligible for the aforesaid fidelity bond and/or employee dishonesty insurance policy exemption. The Respondent would testify, however, to the fact that she timely obtained the bond required, despite her failure to notify the Bar.

The Board finds as applicable mitigating factors recognized by the American Bar Association, as follows:

a. (previous) personal and emotional problems;

The Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent's aforesaid conduct constitutes a violation of the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Virginia Consumer Real Estate Protection Act ("CRESPA"), and the Virginia State Bar Regulations adopted pursuant to CRESPA:

RULE 1.1 Competence

A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.


RULE 1.3 Diligence

(a) A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.

 

RULE 1.4 Communication

(a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.

RULE 1.15 Safekeeping Property

(c) A lawyer shall:

(4) promptly pay or deliver to the client or another as requested by such person the funds, securities, or other properties in the possession of the lawyer which such person is entitled to receive.


RULE 1.16 Declining Or Terminating Representation

(e) All original, client-furnished documents and any originals of legal instruments or official documents which are in the lawyer's possession (wills, corporate minutes, etc.) are the property of the client and shall be returned to the client upon request, whether or not the client has paid the fees and costs owed the lawyer. If the lawyer wants to keep a copy of such original documents, the lawyer must incur the cost of duplication. Upon request, the client must also be provided copies of the following documents from the lawyer's file, whether or not the client has paid the fees and costs owed the lawyer: lawyer/client and lawyer/third-party communications; the lawyer's copies of client-furnished documents (unless the originals have been returned to the client pursuant to this paragraph); pleadings and discovery responses; working and final drafts of legal instruments, official documents, investigative reports, legal memoranda, and other attorney work product documents prepared for the client in the course of the representation; research materials; and bills previously submitted to the client. Although the lawyer may bill and seek to collect from the client the costs associated with making a copy of these materials, the lawyer may not use the client's refusal to pay for such materials as a basis to refuse the client's request. The lawyer, however, is not required under this Rule to provide the client copies of billing records and documents intended only for internal use, such as memoranda prepared by the lawyer discussing conflicts of interest, staffing considerations, or difficulties arising from the lawyer/client relationship.


RULE 5.3 Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants

With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:

(a) a partner in a law firm shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer;

(b) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and

(c) a lawyer shall be responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if:

(1) the lawyer orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or

(2) the lawyer is a partner in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows or should have known of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.


RULE 5.5 Unauthorized Practice Of Law

(a) A lawyer shall not:

(1) practice law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction[.]


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[.]

Respondent's aforesaid conduct also violates the following provisions of the Virginia Consumer Real Estate Protection Act ("CRESPA"), and the following Virginia State Bar Regulations adopted pursuant to CRESPA:

Sections 6.1-226A and 6.1-2.27 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended.

15 VAC 5-80-50 D of the Virginia State Bar Regulations.

Upon consideration whereof, it is ORDERED that:

1. The Respondent shall receive a twenty-four (24) month suspension of her license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia and of her CRESPA registration as an attorney real estate settlement agent, with all but sixty (60) days thereof to be suspended upon the condition that the Respondent commits no further violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and/or CRESPA and the Regulations promulgated thereunder between the date this Agreed Disposition is approved by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board and December 15, 2005. The effective date of the active sixty (60) day portion of Respondent's law license and CRESPA registration suspensions shall be January 1, 2004. Should any disciplinary tribunal of the Virginia State Bar, including a three-judge circuit court, find that Respondent committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and/or CRESPA and the Regulations promulgated thereunder between the date this Agreed Disposition is approved by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board and December 15, 2005, then, and in such event, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board shall impose the balance of the suspended portion of the twenty-four (24) month law license and CRESPA registration suspension terms. Prior to any imposition of the said suspended term, as provided for herein, the Respondent shall be entitled to show cause by clear and convincing evidence, if any she can, before the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board, why the suspended portion of her law license and CRESPA registration suspensions should not be imposed. Unless the term of Respondent's active suspension exceeds one year, the provisions of Part Six, ▀ IV, Ć 13(I)(7)(c) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia ("Reinstatement After Disciplinary Suspension for More than One Year") shall not apply.

2. Neither the Respondent nor any business entity in which she has any interest shall receive any income which is in any way related to real estate settlement transactions conducted on any date falling within the period that Respondent's law license and CRESPA registration are actively suspended pursuant to the terms of Paragraph 1 hereof. "Income" shall be deemed to include any payments or things of value tendered as salary, compensation as an independent contractor, commissions, title insurance premiums, and/or any fee-for-service. The specific intent of this Paragraph 2 is that Respondent receive no compensation of any character whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, on account of real estate settlement transactions conducted during the active term of her law license and CRESPA registration suspensions as provided for herein. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary set forth in this Paragraph, the Respondent shall be entitled to receive the proceeds of title insurance premiums charged by any title insurance agency that she may lawfully operate during the term of her active suspension.

3. Subject to the provisions appearing below, when the Respondent resumes the private practice of law as a Virginia-licensed attorney following the term of her active suspension, including her acting as a Registered Real Estate Settlement Agent under CRESPA, she shall thereupon promptly engage the services of law office management consultant Janean S. Johnston, 250 South Reynolds Street, #710, Alexandria, Virginia 22304-4421, (703) 567-0088, to review and make written recommendations concerning Respondent's law and real estate settlement practice policies, methods, systems, and procedures. 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 law and real estate settlement practice. Respondent shall grant Ms. Johnston access to her practice from time to time, at Ms. Johnston's 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 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). Respondent will have discharged her obligations respecting the terms contained in this Paragraph if she has fulfilled and remained in compliance with all of the terms contained in this Paragraph for a period of two (2) years following the date of her engagement of Ms. Johnston's services. The provisions of this Paragraph 3 shall not apply during any period while Respondent is engaged in the private practice of law and/or as a Registered Real Estate Settlement Agent as a bona fide employee of a law firm or other business entity in which Respondent has no interest whatsoever as owner, shareholder, director, officer, partner, member, or manager; provided, however, that if and when the Respondent ceases to be a bona fide employee under the conditions referred to above, she shall engage, or re-engage, Ms. Johnston pursuant to the terms and conditions set forth above for the balance of the said two (2) year period, it being specifically intended that Respondent have the benefit and comply with Ms. Johnston's evaluation and recommendations for a period which, in the aggregate, covers a period of two (2) years.

4. The Respondent shall by checks made payable to the order of the "Virginia State Bar" pay a penalty for the violations of CRESPA and the Regulations promulgated thereunder in the sum of Seven Thousand Five Thousand Dollars ($7,500.00). The terms of payment shall be as follows: $2,500 on each of the following dates: January 1, 2004, April 21, 2004, and June 21, 2004. All checks tendered pursuant to the terms hereof shall be delivered on or before their respective due dates to Seth M. Guggenheim, Assistant Bar Counsel, 100 North Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.

5. If the Respondent engages in the practice of law and/or acts in the capacity of a "settlement agent" as defined in Section 6.1-2.20 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended, during any period when her license to practice law and her CRESPA registration are suspended, or, if Respondent fails to comply with any of the terms set forth in the preceding Paragraphs 2 through 4, inclusive, in the manner and at the time compliance with any such term is required, then, and in such event, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board shall, as an alternative disposition to the license suspension otherwise provided for herein, REVOKE the Respondent's license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia; and it is further

ORDERED that pursuant to the provisions of Part Six, § IV, ¶ 13(M) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Respondent shall give notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, of this suspension to all clients for whom she is handling matters and to all opposing attorneys and the presiding judges in pending litigation and that she shall also make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters that are in her care in conformity with the wishes of her clients. The notice shall be given within fourteen (14) days of the effective date of her suspension and arrangements shall be made within forty-five (45) days of the effective date of the suspension. Respondent shall also furnish proof to the Bar within sixty (60) days of the effective date of her suspension that such notices have been timely given and that such arrangements for the dispositions of matters have been made. Issues concerning the adequacy of the notice and the arrangements required herein shall be determined by the Disciplinary Board, or, alternatively, by a three-judge circuit court, either of which tribunals may impose a sanction of revocation or additional suspension for failure to comply with the requirements of Part Six, § IV, ¶ 13(M) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. Respondent shall furnish true copies of all of the notice letters sent to all persons notified of the suspension, with the original return receipts for said notice letters, to the Clerk of the Disciplinary System, on or before the sixtieth (60th) day following the effective date of her suspension; and it is further

ORDERED that pursuant to Part Six, § IV, ¶ 13(B)(8)(c) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs against the Respondent. It is further ORDERED that a copy teste of this Order shall be mailed by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, to the Respondent, at her address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 306 Garrisonville Road, Suite 101, Stafford, VA 22554 and by first class, regular mail, to Cary S. Greenberg, Esquire, Respondent's counsel, 1317 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 and to Daniel S. Schumack, Esquire, Respondent's counsel, P.O. Box 3081, Fairfax, VA 22038-3081 and to Seth M. Guggenheim, Assistant Bar Counsel, 100 North Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, VA 22314.

ENTERED this day of ___________________________, 2003.

_______________________________

Robert L. Freed, Second Vice Chair

Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board