V I R G I N I A :
IN THE MATTER OF LAWRENCE RAYMOND MORTON, ESQUIRE
VSB Docket No. 00-053-2891
This matter came on to be heard on June 25, 2002, upon the Agreed Disposition of the Virginia State Bar and the Respondent, based upon the Certification of a Fifth District-Section III Subcommittee. The Agreed Disposition was considered by a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board consisting of Joseph Roy Lassiter, Jr., Esquire, Roscoe Bolar Stephenson, III, Esquire, Herbert Taylor Williams, IV, Esquire, Chester J. Cahoon, Jr., Lay Member and Randy Ira Bellows, Esquire, presiding.
Seth M. Guggenheim, Esquire, representing the Bar, and the Respondent, Lawrence Raymond Morton, Esquire, appearing pro se, presented an endorsed Agreed Disposition, dated June 24, 2002, reflecting the terms of the Agreed Disposition. The court reporter in these proceedings was Donna T. Chandler, Chandler and Halasz, P.O. Box 9349, Richmond, VA 23227, (804) 730-1222.
Having considered the Certification 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, Lawrence Raymond Morton, Esquire (hereinafter the Respondent), has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. The Respondent was appointed by the court to represent the Complainant, James L. Jack, on charges of felony assault. The case went to trial on March 10, 1998 and the Complainant was found guilty of attempted unlawful wounding. On May 15, 1998, the Complainant was sentenced to five years in prison.
3. The Respondent timely filed a petition for appeal with the Virginia Court of Appeals. On October 20, 1998, the Court of Appeals denied the petition for appeal.
4. The Respondent did not inform the Complainant of the denial of his petition for appeal until August 16, 1999, long after the time for filing a notice of appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court had run. The Respondent did not advise the Complainant of his right to an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.
5. By letters dated May 14, 1998, June 3, 1998, July 16, 1998, August 11, 1998, and January 4, 1999, the Complainant wrote to the Respondent requesting information regarding the status of his case and/or requesting the transcripts in his case. The Respondent did not reply to any of these letters or send the requested transcripts. Finally, by letter dated August 16, 1999, after the Complainant had written to the Clerk of the Court asking the Court to intercede, the Respondent provided the Complainant with the transcripts.
6. An aggravating factor recognized by the ABA is Respondent's record of prior disciplinary offenses.
The Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that such conduct on the part of Lawrence Raymond Morton, Esquire, constitutes a violation of the following Rules of the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility:
DR 6-101. Competence and
(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.
Upon consideration whereof, it is ORDERED that the Respondent's license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia shall be suspended for a period of sixty (60) days, commencing on the 1st day of August, 2002; and it is further
ORDERED that pursuant to the provisions of Part Six, §IV, ¶13(K)(1) 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 he is handling matters and to all opposing attorneys and the presiding judges in pending litigation and that he shall also make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters that are in his care in conformity with the wishes of his clients. The notice shall be given within fourteen (14) days prior to the effective date of his suspension and arrangements shall have been made within forty-five (45) days following the effective date of the suspension. Respondent shall also furnish proof to the Bar within sixty (60) days following the effective date of his 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, which may impose a sanction of revocation or suspension for failure to comply with the requirements of this Order. 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 his suspension; and it is further
ORDERED that pursuant to Part Six, §IV, ¶13(K)(10) of the Rules of the Supreme Court, 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, Lawrence Raymond Morton, at his address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 12720 Directors Loop, Woodbridge, VA 22192 and by first class, regular mail, to Seth M. Guggenheim, Assistant Bar Counsel, 100 N. Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, VA 22314-3133.
ENTERED this _ day of ___________________________, 2002.
Randy Ira Bellows, 2nd Vice Chair
Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board