V I R G I N I A
BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
IN THE MATTER OF
BRIDGETTE MIRIAM HARRIS, ESQUIRE
VSB DOCKET NO. 01-000-3231

ORDER OF SUSPENSION


This matter came to be heard on July 27, 2001, in the Green Courtroom of the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, upon a Rule to Show Cause and Order of Suspension and Hearing that was entered on June 29, 2001, against and duly served on Bridgette Miriam Harris, Esquire ("Respondent"). This matter was heard by a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board (the "Board") consisting of Randy Ira Bellows, presiding, Thaddeus T. Crump, Karen A. Gould, Roscoe B. Stephenson, III, and Robert L. Freed.

The Clerk went into the hallway of the Court and called the Respondent's name three times. Respondent did not appear either in person or by counsel. Seth M. Guggenheim, Assistant Bar Counsel, appeared on behalf of The Virginia State Bar.

The court reporter for the proceeding, Catharina M. K. Blalock, Chandler & Halasz, Inc., Post Office Box 9349, Richmond, Virginia 23227, telephone (804) 730-1222, was duly sworn by Mr. Bellows.

Each member of the panel stated on the record that he or she had no business or financial interest and no personal bias that would impair his or her ability to hear the matter fairly and impartially.

Findings of Fact

Upon consideration of the testimony presented and exhibits received, the Board makes the following findings of fact:

Respondent was licensed to practice law within the Commonwealth of Virginia on November 7, 1991. At all times relevant hereto, the Respondent has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Respondent has never been licensed to practice law in the state of Maryland. At all times relevant hereto and until June 14, 1999, the Respondent had been an attorney licensed to practice law before the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland at Greenbelt.

On September 21, 1999, the Court of Appeals of Maryland found the Respondent in violation of various Rules of the Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct (hereafter "Maryland Rules"), specifically: (1) that she engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Maryland, in violation of Maryland Rule 5.5(a) and Maryland Code (1989, 1995 Repl. Vol.), §10-601(a) of the Business Occupations and Professions Article; (2) that she failed properly to advise prospective clients that she was not admitted to practice law in the State of Maryland, in violation of Maryland Rule 7.1; (3) that she used a business card indicating that she was a Maryland attorney, in violation of Maryland Rule 7.5; (4) that she failed to take appropriate steps to protect a client's interests upon termination of representation, in violation of Maryland Rule 1.16(d); (5) that she failed properly to supervise a subordinate employee, which resulted in the unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, in violation of Maryland Rule 5.3(b); and (6) that she failed promptly to notify a client upon receiving funds in which the client had an interest, in violation of Maryland Rule 1.15(b). Respondent was suspended from the practice of law in the State of Maryland for a period of thirty days effective October 21, 1999.

3. The disciplinary action of the Court of Appeals of Maryland constituted a final decision.

4. By Rule to Show Cause and Order of Suspension and Hearing dated June 29, 2001, Respondent's license to practice law in Virginia was immediately suspended pursuant to Paragraph 13(G), and Respondent was ordered to appear before the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board at 9:00 a.m. on July 27, 2001, to show cause why her license to practice law within the Commonwealth of Virginia should not be further suspended or revoked. She was further ordered pursuant to the provisions of Paragraph 13(K)(1): to give notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, of the suspension of her license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia to all clients for whom she was currently handling matters and to all opposing attorneys and presiding judges in pending litigation; to make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters then in her care in conformity with the wishes of clients, and; to give notice within fourteen (14) days of the effective date of that suspension order and make such arrangements as required within forty-five (45) days of the effective date of the suspension order. She was further ordered to provide proof to the Bar within sixty (60) days of the effective date of the suspension order that such notices and arrangements had been given and made.

5. On July 3, 2001, pursuant to this Board's Show Cause Order and Order of Suspension and Hearing, Respondent was provided with notice of the hearing on July 27, 2001, by certified mail, return receipt requested, at her addresses of record with the Virginia State Bar, Suite 303, 7603 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20012 and 13121Riviera Terrace, Silver Springs, MD, 20904.

6. At the hearing held on July 27, 2001, Respondent failed to appear or otherwise respond as required. She provided no evidence or other reason not to suspend her license.

Decision of the Board

Paragraph 13(G), entitled "Disbarment or Suspension in Another Jurisdiction" provides, in relevant part:

. . . If at the time fixed for hearing the Respondent has not filed a written response or shall not appear or if the Board, after hearing, shall determine that the Respondent has failed to establish the allegations of her written response, the Board shall impose the same discipline that was imposed in the other jurisdiction. . . . [Emphasis added].

Based on clear and convincing evidence and on Respondent's failure to appear or adduce any evidence in this matter, we are required to impose the same discipline that was imposed by the Court of Appeals of Maryland.

Accordingly, it is ORDERED that pursuant to Paragraph 13(G), the license of Respondent, Bridgette Miriam Harris, to practice law in Virginia be, and the same hereby is, suspended for a period of thirty days, effective June 29, 2001, as set forth in the Board's Order dated and entered June 29, 2001, attached hereto. This suspension will run concurrently with the suspension this Board issued in VSB Docket # 01-000- 3232.

It is further ORDERED that a certified true copy of the Judgment and Probation/Commitment Order from the Court of Appeals of Maryland Docket No. AG No. 8 be attached to this Order of Suspension and made a part hereof.

It is further ORDERED that, pursuant to the provisions of Paragraph13(K)(1), Respondent shall forthwith give notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, of this suspension of her license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia to all clients for whom she is currently handling matters, if any there be, and to all opposing attorneys and presiding judges in pending litigation. Respondent shall also make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters then in her care, in conformity with the wishes of her clients. Respondent shall give such notice within 14 days of the effective date of this revocation order, and make such arrangements as are required herein within 45 days of this effective date of the suspension order. Respondent shall furnish proof to the Virginia State Bar within 60 days of the effective date of this revocation order that such notices have been timely given and such arrangements for the disposition of matters made. Issues concerning the adequacy of the notice and the arrangement required herein shall be determined by the Board, which may impose a sanction of revocation or suspension for failure to comply with the requirements of this subparagraph.

It is further ORDERED that, pursuant to Paragraph 13(K)(10), the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs.

It is further ORDERED that the Clerk of the Disciplinary System send an attested true copy of this Order to Respondent, Bridgette Miriam Harris, by certified mail, return receipt requested, at her addresses of record with the Virginia State Bar, Suite 303, 7603 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20012 and 13121Riviera Terrace, Silver Springs, MD, 20904, and to Seth Guggenheim, Assistant Bar Counsel, Virginia State Bar, 100 North Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3133.

ENTER THIS ORDER THIS ____ DAY OF AUGUST, 2001
VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD


By: _________________________________
Randy Ira Bellows, 2nd Vice-Chair



C:\wp\RLFW1412.WPD
Version #2.0
After Comments by KG, BL, & RB