V I R G I N I A:
IN THE MATTER OF
ROGER CORY HINDE
VSB Docket: 02-032-1044, 02-031-3428, 03-031-0336, 03-031-0525
The Respondent, Roger Cory Hinde, was represented by his counsel, Gary R. Hershner, Esquire, and was present in person. The Virginia State Bar appeared by its counsel, Barbara Ann Williams, Esquire.
The matter was presented to the Disciplinary Board by way of a Certification (Subcommittee Determination) of the Third District Committee after the Respondent had been given notice of said Certification on the 10th day of March 2003. As a preliminary matter, the Respondent renewed his motions, all of which had previously been denied, that the matter be referred to a three-judge panel, the four pending complaints be severed and heard separately, and that the hearing be continued to another date. Argument was heard, and all three motions were again denied. It was additionally ordered that Respondent was barred from presenting exhibits or witnesses in support of his case, to which he noted an objection. The Board ruled that, inasmuch as the Respondent failed to timely respond to any of the four complaints and failed to designate, in accordance with the Rules, any witnesses or exhibits, he would be precluded from calling witnesses or offering documentary evidence at the hearing of these matters.
The Bar moved into evidence all of its exhibits, which were accepted without objection and are made a part of the record herein. The Bar's first witness, Cam Moffatt, an investigator for the Virginia State Bar, was called to testify regarding all four complaints. Ms. Moffatt testified that Roger Cory Hinde did not respond to any of the four pending complaints, did not present files and trust account documents as requested, and did not comply with duly issued and served subpoenas. It should be noted that some, but not all, records and trust account documents were eventually produced by the Respondent after his failure to comply resulted in an administrative suspension. The witness further testified that all trust account documents were incomplete, no bank statements or subsidiary records were produced, and the Respondent refused to be interviewed. In summary, the evidence was clear that the Respondent hindered the investigation, which was a fact basically acknowledged by the Respondent and characterized by his counsel as his "sins." Ms. Moffatt's evidence was elicited and referenced to all four pending complaints, without objection.
Regarding VSB Docket No. 02-031-1044, the Board found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the Respondent, Roger Cory Hinde, violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 1.15 (e)(1)(i), (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v), relative to Safekeeping Property (trust account records and documents); Rule 8.1(c)and (d) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), pertaining to responding to and cooperation with an investigation of a disciplinary authority. The Bar withdrew the allegation of a violation of Rule 3.4(d) (Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel).
As to VSB Docket No. 02-031-3428, the Board found by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 1.5 (b), requiring that a fee shall be adequately explained to the client; Rule 3.1 (Meritorious Claims and Contentions); Rule 3.3(a) (Candor Toward the Tribunal); and Rule 8.1(c) and (d) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters). The Board found that the Bar failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence a violation of Rule 1.5(a), pertaining to the reasonableness of fees.
As to VSB Docket No. 03-031-0336, the Board found by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent violated the following Rule of Professional Conduct: Rule 8.1(c) and (d) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters).
Regarding VSB Docket No. 03-031-0525, the Board found by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 1.3(a) (Diligence); Rule 1.4(a) (Communication), requiring a lawyer to keep his client reasonably informed as to the status of a matter; Rule 1.15(e) (Safekeeping Property); and Rule 8.1 (c) and (d) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters).
In response to an administrative suspension resulting from failure to comply with the investigation and resulting subpoenae, the Respondent executed a Certification acknowledging:
I hereby certify that after I was personally served with subpoenae duces tecum in the five (sic) above-captioned attorney disciplinary matters, I diligently searched all records within my possession, custody and control, and produced to Bar Counsel no later than December 12, 2002, all information responsive to the subpoenae, including client files and trust account records, except for cash receipts journals, cash disbursements journals, bound checkbook entries, subsidiary ledgers, reconciliations and supporting records, which I do not have.
I further certify that in response to the subpoenae duces tecum, I did not produce all bank records, cancelled checks, bank statements and deposit tickets for any and all trust accounts that I maintained between January 1, 2002, and the present....
The Board found that this acknowledgment by the Respondent, VSB Exhibit F, essentially verified and corroborated the testimony of the Bar investigator regarding all four complaints, notwithstanding the Respondent's claim that he signed such certification under pressure and in order to relieve himself of the administrative suspension.
The Respondent testified on his own behalf and related several personal problems, including the dissolution of his marriage, abuse by his then-spouse, illness of his daughter, excessive travel due to his active practice and being stalked by a female friend. The Respondent stated that he "emotionally shut down" during this period of time. Other than that explanation for his behavior, the Respondent offered no credible evidence in defense of the four complaints or to justify his behavior. The Board found that the Respondent demonstrated a significant lack of candor, failed to acknowledge in any way the seriousness or, in fact, even the existence, of inappropriate ethical behavior. Throughout the investigation, the Respondent failed to cooperate or make any attempt to follow the appropriate Rules of Procedure. It was apparent that the Respondent attempted to obstruct the disciplinary system and intentionally withheld records, some of which, he claimed, may have been helpful to his cause, from both the Bar during its investigation and the Disciplinary Board during the instant proceeding.
After finding, by clear and convincing evidence, violations of the above-referenced Rules, evidence was heard in aggravation or mitigation of sanction. By way of aggravating factors considered by the Board was the prior disciplinary record introduced into evidence by Bar Counsel. In May 1999, the Respondent received a private reprimand. In February 2002, he was issued a private reprimand with terms, including two years of probation, which was later converted to a public reprimand as a result of his failure to comply with the 2002 private reprimand. There were administrative suspensions in September 2002 and December 2002. It was apparent that there was a pattern of misconduct by the Respondent in failing to communicate adequately with clients, diligently represent his clients, unreasonable or questionable fee arrangements, trust account record violations, and the inability to comply with Rules and Procedures regarding the investigation of ethical complaints. It should be noted that the Respondent continues to fail to comply with the Disciplinary Board's Pre-Hearing Order.
By way of mitigation, the Respondent reiterated that he has experienced personal problems in his marriage and the illness (and apparent recovery) of his daughter. An additional mitigating factor, as proffered by the Respondent, was that he encourages his DUI clients to receive counseling, which is viewed by the Board to be admirable. Following all of the evidence presented, argument of counsel, factors both in aggravation and mitigation, the Board further deliberated concerning an appropriate sanction. In consideration of all of which, it is hereby
ORDERED, pursuant to Part 6, Section IV, Paragraph 13(C)(3) of the Rules of the Supreme Court that the license of the Respondent, Roger Cory Hinde, to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia be, and the same hereby is, SUSPENDED for four years, effective April 25, 2003.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Respondent must comply with the requirements of Part 6, Section IV, Paragraph 13(M), of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The time for compliance with said requirements runs from April 25, 2003, the effective date of the Summary Order. All issues concerning the adequacy of the notice and arrangements required by the Summary Order shall be determined by the Board. Pursuant to Part 6, Section 4, Paragraph 13(B)(8)(c) of the Rules, the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a copy teste of this Order shall be mailed, by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the Respondent at his last address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 5002 Monument Avenue, Suite 101, Richmond, Virginia 23220, and to Respondent's counsel, Gary R. Hershner, Esquire, 7 South Adams Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220-5601, and to Bar Counsel, Barbara Ann Williams, Esquire, Virginia State Bar, Eighth and Main Building, 707 East Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, Virginia 23219.
ENTER THIS ORDER THIS ______ DAY OF MAY, 2003.
VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
John A. Dezio, Chair