V I R G I N I A :
BEFORE THE DISCIPLINARY BOARD OF THE
VIRGINIA STATE BAR
IN THE MATTER OF LAWRENCE RAYMOND MORTON, ESQUIRE
VSB Docket Nos.
O R D E R
This matter came on to be heard on February 24, 2004, upon the Agreed Disposition of the Virginia State Bar and the Respondent, based upon the Certification of a Fifth District - Section III Subcommittee, and upon a Motion to Show Cause issued against the Respondent for his having failed to comply with Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part Six, §IV, ¶ 13(K)(1). The Agreed Disposition was considered by a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board consisting of Peter A. Dingman, Esquire, Robert E. Eicher, Esquire, Glenn M. Hodge, Esquire, W. Jefferson OíFlaherty, lay member, and Karen A. Gould, 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 February 19, 2004, reflecting the terms of the Agreed Disposition. The court reporter for the proceeding was Tracy J. Stroh, Chandler & Halasz, P.O. Box 9349 Richmond, VA, telephone (804) 730-1222.
Having considered the Certification, the Motion to Show Cause, 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 (hereafter "Respondent"), has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, although not at all times in good standing.
AS TO VSB DOCKET NO. 03-053-0871:
2. On the 26th day of June, 2002, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board entered an Order suspending the Respondent's license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia for a period of sixty (60) days, commencing on the 1st day of August, 2002. The suspension was the product of a negotiated settlement of misconduct charges against the Respondent, which settlement was reached between the Respondent and the Virginia State Bar, and approved by the Disciplinary Board at a telephone conference in which the Respondent participated on or about June 25, 2002.
3. The Respondent was duly served by certified mail on July 3, 2002, with a copy the Order suspending his license, and he was otherwise personally aware of the effective date and term of his suspension because he personally participated in the process which resulted in the said suspension.
4. On or about the 13th day of September, 2002, a date falling during the term of the said suspension, the Respondent signed and sent a letter to the "Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney" in Prince William County, Virginia, on letterhead identifying the Respondent as "Attorney at Law." The letter represented that it was written on behalf of Respondent's "client" in a certain criminal matter, and the contents of the letter constituted Respondent's effort to advance the legal interests of the client. Respondent's action in drafting, signing, and sending the letter in question, and in taking other actions on behalf of the client during the term of Respondent's said suspension, constituted his unauthorized practice of law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
5. The Virginia State Bar opened a formal Complaint respecting the Respondent's aforesaid actions. On October 2, 2002, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to Respondent, enclosing the Complaint, and stating, inter alia, in bold text, the following: "please review the complaint and provide a written answer, including an original and one copy of your response and all attached exhibits, within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this letter." The Respondent failed to file a written response to the Complaint with the Bar as required by the said letter, either within twenty-one (21) days, or at any time thereafter.
AS TO VSB DOCKET NO. 03-000-2094:
6. On June 26, 2002, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board (hereafter "Board") entered an Order suspending the Respondent's license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia for a period of sixty (60) days, commencing on the 1st day of August, 2002. The Order directed that Respondent comply with Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part Six, § IV, ¶ 13(K)(1) ([currently ¶ 13M], and hereafter referred to as "K-1 Provisions").
7. On July 3, 2002, the Clerk of the Disciplinary System served the aforesaid Order upon the Respondent via a cover letter which made reference to and set forth verbatim the K-1 Provisions. The Clerk's letter informed the Respondent that he was to provide the Clerk with proof of compliance with the K-1 Provisions notice requirement on or before September 29, 2002. The letter also enclosed forms which the letter identified as being "acceptable to the Disciplinary Board in order to be in compliance" with the K-1 Provisions.
8. On December 12, 2002, the Clerk of the Disciplinary System mailed the Respondent a letter advising him that the Clerk had not received proof of compliance with the aforesaid notice requirements, urging him to comply therewith, and advising him of the consequences of noncompliance.
9. Notwithstanding service upon Respondent of the aforesaid documents concerning his compliance with K-1 Provisions, all as set forth above, the Respondent has failed to so comply inasmuch as, inter alia, he has at no time following service of the said Order, letters, and sample compliance forms, furnished any proof whatsoever to the Clerk of the Disciplinary System that he had taken any of the measures required by the K-1 Provisions.
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 Professional Conduct:
RULE 3.4 Fairness To Opposing Party And Counsel
A lawyer shall not:
(d) Knowingly disobey or advise a client to disregard a standing rule or a ruling of a tribunal made in the course of a proceeding, but the lawyer may take steps, in good faith, to test the validity of such rule or ruling.
RULE 5.5 Unauthorized Practice Of Law
(a) A lawyer shall not:
(1) practice law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction[.]
RULE 8.1 Bar Admission And Disciplinary Matters
An applicant for admission to the bar, or a lawyer in connection with a bar admission application, in connection with any certification required to be filed as a condition of maintaining or renewing a license to practice law, in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not:
(c) fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority, except that this Rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6[.]
RULE 8.4 Misconduct
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;
(b) commit a criminal or deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer;
(c) engage in professional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation[.]
Upon consideration whereof, it is ORDERED that the Respondent shall receive a two (2) year suspension of his license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, to commence on the 1st day April, 2004, as representing an appropriate sanction if this matter were to be heard. The Respondent shall accept no new clients between the date of entry of this Order and the effective date of his suspension, inclusive; and it is further
ORDERED that pursuant to the provisions of Part Six, § IV, ¶ 13(M) 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 of the effective date of his suspension and arrangements shall be made within forty-five (45) days of the effective date of the suspension. Respondent shall also furnish proof to the Bar within sixty (60) days of 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, or, alternatively, by a three-judge circuit court, either of which tribunals may impose a sanction of revocation or additional suspension for failure to comply with the requirements of Part Six, § IV, ¶ 13(M) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. 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(B)(8)(c) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, 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, 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 North Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, VA 22314.
ENTERED this day of ___________________________, 2004.
Karen A. Gould, 1st Vice Chair
Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board