IN THE MATTER OF VSB DOCKET: 00-021-0190
ARTHUR CHARLES ERMLICH, JR.
This matter was certified to the Disciplinary Board by the Second District Committee, Section One and was heard on September 28, 2001, by a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board consisting of John A. Dezio, First Vice-Chair, William C. Boyce, Jr., Donna A. DeCorleto, Joseph R. Lassiter, Jr., and Roscoe B. Stephenson, III. The Respondent, Arthur Charles Ermlich, Jr., appeared without counsel, and Paul D. Georgiadis, Assistant Bar Counsel, appeared as counsel for the Virginia State Bar. The proceedings were transcribed by Donna T. Chandler of Chandler & Halasz, P.O. Box 9349, Richmond, Virginia 23227, (804) 730-1222.
The Chair polled the panel to determine whether any member would be prevented from hearing the matter because of a conflict, actual or perceived. Each member, including the Chair, responded in the negative.
The Bar introduced eight exhibits: Exhibit #1, Board Certification dated March 14, 2001 notifying the Respondent of the District Committee Determination (Certification) and amended Board Certification dated March 15, 2001; Exhibit #2, Respondent's Answer dated March 28, 2001; Exhibit #3, Circuit Court Order dated April 21, 1998 appointing Respondent to handle complainant's appeal; Exhibit #4, Notice of Appeal dated April 23, 1998; Exhibit #5, Court of Appeals Order dated August 19, 1998 dismissing the appeal for failure to file a petition; Exhibit #6, Complainant's letter dated February 26, 1999 to the Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk requesting information regarding his appeal; Exhibit #7, Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk's letter dated March 19, 1999 notifying the complainant of the dismissal of his appeal; Exhibit #8, Deposition transcript of complainant dated December 12, 2000. The preceding exhibits were tendered to the Board prior to the testimonial portion of the hearing and the Respondent offered no objection to their admission. They were admitted.
The Respondent admitted all allegations.
After deliberation, the Board unanimously found the following as fact:
From these findings the Board concludes by clear and convincing evidence that the following disciplinary rules have been violated:
DR6-101 Competence and Promptness:
(B) a lawyer shall attend promptly to matters undertaken for a client until completed or until the lawyer has properly and completely withdrawn from representing the client;
(C) a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about matters in which the lawyer's services are being rendered.
Having found misconduct, the Board then heard evidence and argument relating to sanctions. The State Bar introduced the Respondent's disciplinary record consisting of the following:
A complaint filed in 1997 which arose from Respondent's failure to note an appeal, which resulted in a Dismissal with Terms;
Three complaints filed in 1999, concerning conduct which occurred in 1997 or 1998, all of which involve failure to perfect appeals and/or failure to communicate with clients. The first such case resulted in a Dismissal with Terms, which ultimately became a Public Reprimand when Respondent failed to comply with the terms. The second case from 1999 resulted in a Public Reprimand. Respondent failed to appear before the District Committee for either of these hearings, and suffered an administrative suspension of his license for three days in May of 2001 when he failed to pay District Committee hearing costs which had been assessed against him in the two cases. The case before this panel is the third complaint filed in 1999.
In mitigation, the Respondent offered an exhibit which was admitted, consisting of a Virginia MCLE Board end-of-year report which revealed that Respondent attended a Continuing Legal Education course entitled "Reasonable Doubt" on September 23, 1999 for which he was given six credits. Respondent argued that this was his attempt to comply with earlier imposed terms and that he simply failed to notify the Bar of his compliance. The Bar argued that in no case would the course be considered compliance due to the fact that he received credit for the course.
Respondent also pointed out that his firm had hired a lawyer to handle criminal appeals and that he no longer intended to handle such matters.
Following argument, the Board deliberated.
From the evidence and argument the Board unanimously determined, and hereby ORDERS, that pursuant to Part 6, Section IV, paragraph 13(C)(7)(iv) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia that the license of the Respondent, Arthur Charles Ermlich, Jr., be suspended for a period of thirty (30) days, effective the 28th day of September, 2001.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, pursuant to the provisions of Part 6, Section IV, paragraph 13, (K)(1) of the aforesaid rules, that the Respondent shall forthwith give notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, of his suspension of his license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia to all clients for whom he is currently handling matters, and to all opposing attorneys and presiding judges in pending litigation. The Respondent shall also make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters in his care in conformity with the wishes of his clients. Respondent shall give such notice within fourteen (14) days of the effective date of the suspension order and make such arrangements as are required herein within forty-five (45) days of the effective date of the suspension order. The Respondent shall furnish proof to the Bar within sixty (60) days of the effective date of the suspension order that such notices have been timely given and such arrangements for disposition of matters made. All issues concerning adequacy of the notices and arrangements required herein shall be determined by the Disciplinary Board; and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Respondent shall furnish true copies of all of the notice letters sent to all persons notified of the suspension with original return receipts for such notices to the Clerk of the Disciplinary System on or before November 27, 2001; and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Disciplinary System send an attested and true copy of this Opinion and Order to the Respondent, Arthur Charles Ermlich, Jr., by certified mail, return receipt requested, at his current address of record with the Virginia State Bar, at Berry, Ermlich, Lomax & Meixel, 2397 Court Plaza Drive, Suite 103, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456.
The Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs pursuant to Part 6, Section IV, paragraph 13(K)(10) of the aforesaid rules.
ENTERED this ______ day of _______________, 2001.
VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
John A. Dezio, First Vice-Chair