V I R G I N I A :

BEFORE THE FIFTH DISTRICT--SECTION III SUBCOMMITTEE
OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR


IN THE MATTER OF
STEVEN MARK FREI, ESQ.
VSB Docket No. 00-053-2732

AGREED DISPOSITION

Pursuant to the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part 6, ( IV, (13(G)(1)(c)(3), the Virginia State Bar, by Assistant Bar Counsel Seth M. Guggenheim, and the Respondent, Steven Mark Frei, Esquire, 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, 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 therein and this matter shall be heard by the full Committee.



SEEN AND AGREED TO:

THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR

______________________ Date:________
Seth M. Guggenheim
Assistant Bar Counsel


______________________ Date:________
Steven Mark Frei, Esquire
Respondent


SUBCOMMITTEE ACTION


Pursuant to the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part 6, ( IV, ( 13(G)(1)(c)(3), the duly convened Subcommittee of the Fifth District--Section III Committee of the Virginia State Bar hereby accepts the Agreed Disposition in this matter.

Date: __________ _________________________________

Date: __________ _________________________________

Date: __________ _________________________________


V I R G I N I A :

BEFORE THE FIFTH DISTRICT--SECTION III SUBCOMMITTEE
OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR


IN THE MATTER OF
STEVEN MARK FREI, ESQ.
VSB Docket No. 00-053-2732


SUBCOMMITTEE DETERMINATION
PUBLIC REPRIMAND

 

On September 22, 2003, a meeting in this matter was held before a duly convened Fifth District--Section III Subcommittee consisting of Joyce Ann N. Massey, Esq., James G. Moran, lay member, and E. Allen Newcomb, Esq., presiding.


Pursuant to the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part 6, ( IV, ( 13(G)(1)(c)(3), the Fifth District--Section III Subcommittee of the Virginia State Bar hereby serves upon the Respondent the following Public Reprimand, as set forth below:


I. FINDINGS OF FACT

1. At all times relevant hereto Steven Mark Frei, Esq., (hereafter (Respondent() was an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

2. On or about January 3, 1996, Ms. Kathleen T. Green (hereafter (Complainant() retained the Respondent to represent her in a personal injury premises liability claim arising from
an injury sustained by the Complainant in a slip and fall incident which occurred on January 9, 1994.

3. On or about January 5, 1996, the Respondent filed suit on Complainant(s behalf in the Arlington County, Virginia, Circuit Court.

4. The litigation initially progressed in the customary manner, which included the taking of Complainant(s deposition on behalf of the defendant in the action. A trial date was originally scheduled for a date in February of 1997, but the trial date was continued to October 2, 1997.

5. As the October trial date approached, the Respondent and Complainant discussed problems with Complainant(s claim respecting liability and the fact that a treating physician had moved away from the area. The Respondent agreed to press for a settlement of the claim.

6. Hearing nothing further from the Respondent following the discussion mentioned above, the Complainant began leaving messages for the Respondent in November of 1997, to which he did not respond. She thereafter wrote a letter to the Respondent on or about February 26, 1998, to which he did not respond. She thereafter left another message for the Respondent on or about April 7 and 28, 1998, to which he did not respond. On May 20, 1998, the Complainant left another message for the Respondent, referring in her message to her February letter and her calls placed in April. The Respondent did not respond to this latter message.

7. On March 15, 2000, the Complainant telephoned the Respondent again, and was told that the Respondent had changed law firms and had taken her case with him. The Complainant then called the Respondent at his new law firm, and left a message which was not returned.

8. A few days following her March 15, 2000, call to the Respondent, the Complainant called the Arlington County, Virginia, Circuit Court, and learned that her case had been dismissed in January of 2000.

9. On or about March 22, 2000, the Complainant sent a letter to the Respondent requesting information concerning the status of her case and stating, inter alia, that it had been over two and one-half years since they had spoken to each other, and that she had been unsuccessful in her attempts to reach him. The Complainant requested transmittal of her file in the event that Respondent would be unable to contact her by March 31, 2000.

10. The Respondent sent the Complainant a letter dated April 14, 2000, stating, inter alia, that (My records indicate that you did not want to continue pursuit of the claim and thus I took no further action;( that according to his (records( he had not received any message or correspondence from the Complainant since 1997; and that he had requested that Complainant(s file be copied and forwarded to her (under separate cover.)

11. The Respondent, in his said letter, also stated:
This is obviously not the best of situations. If you want to continue pursuit of your claim I would suggest that you allow me to make a filing with the court requesting that the order entered in January was not appropriate and the case should be reinstated to the Court( [sic] active calender [sic]. Alternatively, I could have a discussion with the defense attorney that forwarded the order to me earlier this year as discussed above and determine if he would agree to a new filing of your claim. This should be done as soon as possible.

12. The (order entered in January( referred to in Respondent(s letter was not an order of nonsuit, but, rather, was an order dismissing Complainant(s case (with prejudice.( The order itself reflected that it had been entered at the joint request of the Respondent and opposing counsel. The order became final as a matter of law twenty-one days following its date of entry on January 18, 2000.

13. The Complainant had not received any file materials from the Respondent as of the time of her interview by a Virginia State Bar investigator in 2002, nearly two years following Respondent(s representation in his April 14, 2000, letter that the file would be copied and sent to her.


II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT

The Subcommittee finds that the following provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rules of Professional Conduct have been violated:


DR 6-101. 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.

(D) A lawyer shall inform his client of facts pertinent to the matter and of communications from another party that may significantly affect settlement or resolution of the matter.

RULE 1.2 Scope of Representation

(a) A lawyer shall abide by a client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation, subject to paragraphs (b), (c), and (d), and shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued. A lawyer shall abide by a client's decision, after consultation with the lawyer, whether to accept an offer of settlement of a matter. In a criminal case, the lawyer shall abide by the client's decision, after consultation with the lawyer, as to a plea to be entered, whether to waive jury trial and whether the client will testify.

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.


(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

(c) A lawyer shall inform the client of facts pertinent to the matter and of communications from another party that may significantly affect settlement or resolution of the matter.

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.


III. PUBLIC REPRIMAND

Accordingly, it is the decision of the Subcommittee to impose a PUBLIC REPRIMAND on Respondent, Steven Mark Frei, Esquire, and he is so reprimanded.


IV. COSTS

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.


FIFTH DISTRICT - SECTION III SUBCOMMITTEE
OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR


By __________________________________
E. Allen Newcomb, Chair Designate


CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE


I certify that I have this ____ day of ______________________________, 2003, mailed a true and correct copy of the Subcommittee Determination (PUBLIC REPRIMAND) by CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, to the Respondent, Steven Mark Frei, Esq., Hall & Sickels, P.C., Reston Executive Center, 12120 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 150, Reston, VA 22190, his address of record with the Virginia State Bar, and a copy thereof by first class mail, postage prepaid, to Seth M. Guggenheim, Assistant Bar Counsel, at 100 North Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3133.

_______________________________________
Chair/Chair Designate