BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
IN THE MATTER OF
CLAYMAN RICARDO NORFLEET, ESQUIRE
VSB Docket Numbers
03-080-0802, 03-080-1274, 03-080-1426, 03-080-1576, 03-080-1793, 03-080-1794, 03-080-0650, 03-080-2532, 03-080-2662 and 02-080-3546
ORDER OF REVOCATION
On June 27, 2003, at 9:00 0’clock a.m., this matter came before a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board (the “Board”) consisting of Robert L. Freed, Chair, Deborah A. J. Wilson, David R. Schultz, William J. Sturgill, and Peter A. Dingman, upon a sworn petition (the “Petition”) of the Virginia State Bar (the “Bar”) pursuant to Part 6, §IV, ¶ 13.I.b.1  , of the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia (the “Rules”). The Bar appeared by its counsel, Claude V. Worrell, II. Although sent notice of the hearing, and after the Chair directed his name to be called three times in the hall, Clayman Ricardo Norfleet (the “Respondent”) did not appear. The proceedings were reported by Theresa S. Griffen of Chandler & Halasz, Registered Professional Reporters, P.O. Box 9349, Richmond, VA, 23227, phone number (804) 730-1222.
Prior to proceeding in this matter, the Chair polled the members of the Board participating in this hearing as to whether any of them was conscious of any personal or financial interest or bias which would prevent such member from fairly and impartially hearing the matter. Each member, including the Chair, answering in the negative the hearing proceeded with the Bar presenting its evidence via testimony of witnesses and documentary exhibits admitted to record. At the conclusion of the Bar’s presentation of evidence, and following argument of its counsel, the Board retired to consider the evidence presented and found that the following facts had been proved by clear and convincing evidence:
1. At all times relevant hereto, Respondent, Clayman Ricardo Norfleet, has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. Virginia State Bar Investigator C. Kenneth Venable made many attempts to reach the Respondent but was not able to meet with the Respondent. Mr. Venable went to the Respondent's home and received no answer to his knocks on the Respondent's door, even though neighbors advised that Respondent lived there. The Respondent has not responded to the Bar's requests for information in any matter referred to above and has failed to cooperate with the Bar's investigation into all of the charges of misconduct detailed in this certification, save docket number 03-080-0650.
VSB Docket Number 02-080-3546
3. James W. Carter (hereinafter, as to this case number, the “Complainant”) asked the Respondent to represent him on criminal charges and paid the Respondent $1,475.00 to represent him at trial. The Complainant was found guilty of malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and wished to appeal his conviction to the Virginia Court of Appeals. The Complainant hired the Respondent to represent him in his appeal. The Respondent noted the appeal on July 24, 2002. The Complainant was sentenced on June 26, 2002.
4. The Respondent received a letter from Shannon Sakalas, the court reporter at the Complainant's trial, informing him that the cost of the trial transcript would be $1,200.00. Ms. Sakalas sent another letter on August 5, 2002, indicating that she had tried to contact the Respondent three times to discuss the cost of the Complainant's transcript. Ms. Sakalas also stressed that time was of the essence because the deadline to file the transcript was near.
5. On August 26, 2002, the Respondent filed two motions in the Virginia Court of Appeals, one for a determination of indigency and another for an extension of time to file the transcript from the Complainant's trial. The motion for an extension was denied on August 29, 2002. On August 30, 2002, the Virginia Court of Appeals issued a rule to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed due to the Respondent's failure to file a transcript and a statement of facts. The Court demanded a reply by September 14, 2002. On September 24, 2002, the appeal was dismissed. The Court noted that the Respondent did not respond to the rule to show cause. On September 24, 2002, the Virginia Court of Appeals issued another order denying the Complainant's motion to appoint new counsel.
6. On November 26, 2002, the Honorable William Broadhurst, Judge asked and or appointed Melissa Friedman, Esquire to represent the Complainant in his attempt to have his appeal reinstated.
VSB Docket Number 03-080-0650 
7. The Complainant (as to this case number), Stacy Watkins, through his mother hired the Respondent to file a motion for post-conviction release from incarceration and admission to home electronic incarceration or home electronic monitoring. The Complainant paid the Respondent $425.00 to file the motion on his behalf. The Complainant's mother, Virginia Martin-Price sent the check along with a letter dated May 26, 2002.
8. The Respondent accepted payment by either cashing or depositing the check but did nothing for the Complainant. The Respondent failed to contact the Complainant. The Respondent also moved out of the offices he shared with Perry Harrold, Esquire and left no forwarding number or address. Mr. Harrold's office advised the Complainant that they could not locate the Respondent.
9. The Virginia State Bar, by Mary Martelino, Assistant Intake Counsel, sent a letter of inquiry to the Respondent and advised him of the Complainant's concerns. By letter dated August 19, 2002, the Respondent told Ms. Martelino that on or about July 21, 2002, on behalf of the Complainant, he filed, with the Virginia State Parole Board, an application for special conditional release and home electronic monitoring. In case that was not approved, he asked that the Complainant be transferred from the therapeutic drug center where he was housed. The Parole Board did receive an application from the Respondent on August 9, 2002.
10. The Complainant heard nothing from the Parole Board or from the Respondent. In a letter to the Virginia State Bar dated January 20, 2003, he advised the Bar that he had not heard from the Respondent. He also stated that he tried to contact the respondent but was unable to reach him. To date, the Respondent has not communicated with his client concerning his application for special release.
VSB Docket Number 03-080-1274
11. The Respondent failed to pay his Virginia State Bar dues for 2002-2003. The Respondent's dues were to have been paid on or before July 31, 2002. As a result of his failure to pay his dues on time, several late fees and reinstatement fees were added to the $250.00 in dues he already owed. Because the Respondent failed to pay his dues his license to practice law in Virginia was suspended on October 9, 2002. The Respondent was notified of the suspension by certified letter on October 10, 2002. At the time of his suspension the Respondent owed the Virginia State Bar $450.00.
12. On October 21, 2002, the Respondent appeared before the Honorable Charles N. Dorsey, Judge in the Circuit Court of Roanoke City to represent Sandra Marie Goodwin in her appeal from General District Court. Prior to starting the trial, Judge Dorsey asked the Respondent if there were any problems with his law license. The Respondent responded that the problem was "all cleared up." The problems were not "all cleared up."
13. On October 23, 2002, the Bar received the Respondent's check for $300 and applied that amount to the balance owed. Martha Shippee of the Virginia State Bar Membership Department called the Respondent to notify him that his payment was insufficient to have his license reinstated and that he need to send an additional $150.00. On October 29, 2002, the Virginia State Bar received the Respondent's check for $150.00.
14. The Respondent's check for $150.00 was returned by the bank because it had been written on a closed account. The Respondent's license was suspended again and he was notified of that fact by certified letter dated November 14, 2002. On November 26, 2002, the Respondent
and his secretary appeared at the Bar's office and paid the $150.00 fee in cash. The Respondent was reinstated on November 26, 2002.
VSB Docket Number 03-080-1426
15. Regina Alexander (hereafter, as to this case number, the Complainant) hired the Respondent to represent her in a child custody case. The Complainant paid the Respondent more than $900.00 in fees. The Respondent went to court several times with the Complainant in Bedford County. At the conclusion of a hearing held on June 17, 2002, the next hearing was set October 1, 2002.
16. On October 1, 2002, the Complainant and the attorneys for the other parties appeared. The Respondent failed to appear. The Honorable Kenneth Farrer, Judge was presiding. A Deputy Clerk took a phone call from the Respondent who informed the Clerk that his car was in the "shop" and he would not be in court. He left a contact number for the Clerk. The Clerk phoned the Respondent to ask him if he could find a ride or get to court by some other means. The Respondent said he would try and call the Clerk back. The Respondent never called back and did not appear in court. As a result, Judge Farrer issued a rule to show cause for the Respondent's failure to appear. On January 14, 2003, Judge Farrer conducted a hearing on the rule to show cause and took the matter under advisement for a period of twelve months.
17. Due to the Respondent's failure to appear at the October 1, 2002 hearing, the Complainant fired the Respondent and hired Robert Armstrong, Esquire to replace him in her custody case.
VSB Docket Number 03-080-1576
18. As previously stated in paragraphs 11 and 12 above, the Respondent failed to pay his dues on time. For the sake of clarity and completeness the information is repeated. Consequently, several late fees and reinstatement fees were added to the $250.00 he already owed as dues. The Respondent's license to practice law was suspended on October 9, 2002, and on October 10, 2002, the Respondent was again notified by certified letter that his license was suspended because he failed to pay his Virginia State Bar dues as required. At the time of his suspension the Respondent owed the Virginia State Bar $450.00.
19. On October 23, 2002, the Bar received the Respondent's check for $300.00 and applied that amount to the balance owed. Martha Shippee of the Membership Department of the Virginia State Bar again called the Respondent to notify the Respondent that his payment was insufficient to have his license reinstated and that he need to send $150.00 more. On October 29, 2002, the Virginia State Bar received the Respondent's check for $150.00.
20. The Respondent's check for $150.00 was returned by the bank because the Respondent had written the check on a closed account. The Respondent's license was suspended again and he was notified of that fact by certified letter dated November 14, 2002.
21. On November 25, 2002, the Respondent appeared in the Roanoke Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court as counsel for a criminal defendant. The Respondent's license to practice law was still suspended for his failure to pay Virginia State Bar dues. The Honorable Joseph M. Clarke, II, Judge was present and received a note from the Respondent regarding his license to practice law.
22. The Respondent averred that his license was, to the best of his knowledge, reinstated and his secretary was on her way to the Virginia State Bar's office in Richmond to make sure that his license was reinstated. He went on to state that his secretary would arrive at the Bar's office by 4:00 p.m. and had the funds to pay any fee he owed to the Bar. The Respondent also requested that the judge call his case at the end of the docket. The Respondent's secretary did not appear at the Bar's office in Richmond on November 25, 2002.
23. On November 26, 2002, the Respondent and his secretary appeared at the Bar's office in Richmond and paid the $150.00 fee in cash. The Respondent was reinstated on November 26, 2002.
VSB Docket Numbers 03-080-1793 and 03-080-1794
24. The Complainants, Janice M. Warren and her boyfriend, Randolph Stump, hired the Respondent. Ms. Warren hired the Respondent to represent her in some disputes she was having with her ex-husband over real estate. She paid the Respondent $913.00 on or about November 16, 2001. As requested, the Respondent had the name of Ms. Warren's ex-husband removed from the deed to her home. However, he did not have the ex-husband's name removed from the deed to the property at 1031 Andrews Road, the property that the Respondent was renting from her.
25. On or about July 8, 2001, Mr. Stump paid the Respondent $500.00 to file a bankruptcy petition. The Respondent informed Mr. Stump that his bankruptcy would be completed by Thanksgiving of 2002. The Respondent has never filed the petition but has repeatedly told Mr. Stump that he has filed the documents. The Respondent has also not returned Mr. Stump's records so he can give them to another attorney.
VSB Docket Number 03-080-2532
26. The Complainant, Johnnie Spencer, hired the Respondent to represent him in a case in the Circuit Court of Henry County. The Complainant was charged with first degree murder and other felony offenses. The Respondent represented the Complainant through trial. The Complainant was found guilty of second degree murder and other felonies. On appeal, the Complainant was represented by a public defender. The Complainant needs the file from his Circuit Court trial to petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He has tried to contact the Respondent to request his file, but has been unable to reach the Respondent. The Complainant has sent at least three letters to the Respondent and left phone messages for the Respondent. The Respondent has not responded to any of the Complainant's requests.
VSB Docket Number 03-080-2662
27. The Respondent represented Mr. Joseph Taylor in a forfeiture proceeding in the Circuit Court of the City of Martinsville. Mr. Taylor contested the forfeiture and prevailed after a hearing.
28. The Martinsville Police Department attempted to return to Mr. Taylor the funds taken from him in the forfeiture proceeding by a check made payable to the Respondent and Mr.
Taylor. The Respondent told Mr. Taylor he would receive $750.00 and the rest would be applied to his legal fees. Mr. Taylor did not object to that arrangement.
29. The Respondent negotiated the check but never gave Mr. Taylor the $750.00. In January of 2003, Mr. Taylor contacted the Martinsville Commonwealth's Attorney, Joan Ziglar, Esquire (hereafter, as to this case number, the Complainant) and complained that the Respondent had stolen the money from him. Mr. Taylor also said he had filed a warrant in debt against the Respondent. The Respondent did not appear in court to contest the warrant in debt and judgment was entered in favor of Mr. Taylor.
30. The Complainant discussed the matter with the Honorable Charles Stone and Judge Stone set a hearing for February 24, 2003 at 1:45 p.m. to hear from the Respondent. The Complainant spoke to the Respondent on February 19, 2003, and told him about the hearing. The Respondent agreed to appear at the hearing.
31. On February 24, 2003, the Complainant and Mr. Taylor appeared for the hearing. The Respondent again failed to appear. Mr. Taylor gave the Complainant a note from the Respondent who said he had obtained a cashier's check for $750.00 and would meet Mr. Taylor at Mr. Taylor's home to give him the check. The Respondent never met Mr. Taylor and Mr. Taylor never received his money from the Respondent.
VSB Docket Number 03-080-0802
32. The Complainant as to this case number, Ms. Jody Roach, hired the Respondent to represent her boyfriend Frederick L. Bush, Jr., in criminal matters. Ms. Roach agreed to pay the Respondent $5,000.00 to represent Mr. Bush, and paid the Respondent $2,500 in advance fees on July 13, 2002. The Respondent obtained a bond hearing for Mr. Bush on July 17, 2002, and Mr. Bush was admitted to bond. At the time of Mr. Bush's release, the Respondent instructed Mr. Bush to call his office and make an appointment for the following week. The Complainant and Mr. Bush called the Respondent's office as instructed. The Respondent informed them that he had not talked to or met with the Commonwealth's Attorney assigned to the case, but scheduled them an appointment with him, the Respondent, for August 12, 2002.
33. On August 12, 2002, the Complainant called the Respondent's office to ask if their appointment with him was still going to occur, but the Respondent was not in and did not return her call until August 13, 2002. The Respondent said he did not return the call because he was out of town. They rescheduled the meeting for August 15, 2002.
34. The preliminary hearing was scheduled for August 28, 2002, but was continued to September 4, 2002. The Respondent met with Randy Krantz, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, on August 29, 2002. Following the meeting, the Respondent called the Complainant and Mr. Bush and instructed them to call his office and make an appointment for that day or sometime over the weekend. Again, they did as instructed but could not reach the Respondent. They called at least three or four times a day and left messages but no calls were returned.
35. On September 4, 2000, Mr. Bush and Ms. Roach went to court without any preparation or information from the Respondent. The Respondent failed to appear at the hearing but called and said he was going to the hospital because he had acid reflux. The case was rescheduled for September 30, 2002. After the hearing, the Complainant and/or Mr. Bush attempted to contact the Respondent by leaving messages on his answering machine but the Respondent did not call them back.
36. The Complainant and Mr. Bush heard nothing from the Respondent until November of 2002, when the Respondent called Ms. Roach. Ms. Roach demanded a refund from the Respondent. The Respondent said he would examine his records, determine the appropriate refund amount and call her the next day. The Respondent did not call the Complainant the next day. The Complainant called the phone number she had for the Respondent and spoke with the Respondent's wife. Mrs. Norfleet told the Complainant that the Respondent no longer lived at home and was not there to receive phone calls. The Complainant and Mr. Bush have not heard from the Respondent since November of 2002.
37. Mr. Joey Roach has also made a complaint against the Respondent and it has been listed under this case number. Mr. Roach indicated that the Respondent was appointed to represent him in an appeal of a sentence he received for violating the terms and conditions of his probation. Mr. Roach received a sentence of six (6) years to serve for the probation violation and he has been incarcerated since he was convicted in September, 2002.
38. Mr. Roach has tried to contact Mr. Norfleet without success. Mr. Roach waited five (5) months for Mr. Norfleet to contact him and has heard nothing from Mr. Norfleet. No appeal was filed for Mr. Roach.
Upon these findings of fact, the Board concluded that the Bar had (again, by clear and convincing evidence) established that Respondent had violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct:
RULE 1.1 Competence
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
RULE 1.3 Diligence
(a) A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
(b) A lawyer shall not intentionally fail to carry out a contract of employment entered into with a client for professional services, but may withdraw as permitted under Rule 1.16.
(c) A lawyer shall not intentionally prejudice or damage a client during the course of the professional relationship, except as required or permitted under Rule 1.6 and Rule 3.3.
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 1.15 Safekeeping Property
(b) When in the course of representation a lawyer is in possession of property in which both the lawyer and another person claim interests, the property shall be kept separate by the lawyer until there is an accounting and severance of their interests. If a dispute arises concerning their respective interests, the portion in dispute shall be kept separate by the lawyer until the dispute is resolved.
(c) A lawyer shall:
(3) maintain complete records of all funds, securities, and other properties of a client coming into the possession of the lawyer and render appropriate accounts to the client regarding them; and
(4) promptly pay or deliver to the client or another as requested by such person the funds, securities, or other properties in the possession of the lawyer which such person is entitled to receive.
RULE 1.16 Declining Or Terminating Representation
(a) Except as stated in paragraph (c), a lawyer shall not represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if:
(1) the representation will result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;
(2) the lawyer's physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer's ability to represent the client; or
(3) ….. .
(c) In any court proceeding, counsel of record shall not withdraw except by leave of court after compliance with notice requirements pursuant to applicable rules of court. In any other matter, a lawyer shall continue representation notwithstanding good cause for terminating the representation, when ordered to do so by a tribunal.
(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, refunding any advance payment of fee that has not been earned and handling records as indicated in paragraph (e).
(e) …. .
RULE 3.3 Candor Toward The Tribunal
(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly:
(1) make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal;
(2) fail to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by the client, subject to Rule 1.6;
(3) ….; or
(4) offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false. If a lawyer has offered material evidence and comes to know of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures.
RULE 4.1 Truthfulness In Statements To Others
In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly:
(a) Make a false statement of fact or law; or
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:
(a) knowingly make a false statement of material fact;
(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; or
(d) obstruct a lawful investigation by an admissions or disciplinary authority.
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;
(d) …..; or
(e) ….. .
All other Charges of Misconduct contained in the Petition were dismissed.
After announcing these conclusions, the Board heard such evidence as the Bar chose to offer in mitigation and/or aggravation, and the Board then retired to consider the appropriate sanctions to be imposed. The Board then returned and announced its decision as follows:
ORDERED that, the license of Respondent, Clayman Ricardo Norfleet, to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, be, and the same hereby is, REVOKED, effective June 27, 2003 (a summary order being entered that date); and
FURTHER, ORDERED that, pursuant to Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13(M) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia (as revised and consolidated Sept. 18, 2002), Respondent shall forthwith give notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, of this revocation of his license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia to all clients for whom he is currently handling any matters, to all judges and the clerks of the courts before which Respondent may have any pending cases and to all opposing counsel on all such case. Respondent shall also make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters now in his care, in conformity with the wishes of his clients. Respondent shall give such notice within 14 days after the date of this Order (the "Order Effective Date"), shall make such appropriate arrangements for disposition of matters in his care within 45 days after the Order Effective Date and, further, Respondent shall furnish proof that such notices have been timely given and such arrangements made to the Clerk of the Disciplinary System not later than 5:00 p.m., on the 60th day after the Order Effective Date; and
FURTHER ORDER that, pursuant to Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13.B.8(C), of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs; and
FURTHER, ORDERED that, a copy of this Order shall be mailed (i) by certified mail, return receipt requested, to Respondent at his address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 1031 Andrews Road, N.W., Roanoke, VA 24012, and by first class mail to counsel for the Bar, Claude V. Worrell, II, Esq., 100 North Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, VA 22314.
ENTERED this ______ day of July, 2003.
VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
Robert L. Freed, Second Vice Chair
 The Petition filed by the Bar incorrectly cited Paragraph 13(C)(5)(i) of the Rules. The notice sent to Clayman Ricardo Norfleet, at his address of record with the Bar by the Clerk of the Disciplinary System cited the correct paragraph of the Rules. The Board concluded that this incorrect reference was, if error, harmless.
 Although this case number and case number 03-080-2532 were not listed in the caption of the Bar’s Petition or the Order setting this matter for hearing, nor explicitly referenced in the notice letter sent to Respondent, the cases are fully set forth in the body of the Petition, a copy of which was attached to the notice letter, and the Board concluded that their omission from the caption and reference line was, if error, harmless.