VIRGINIA:

BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
IN THE MATTER OF PATRICK ROGER OWEN

VSB Docket Nos. 03-041-3728, 03-041-3729, 03-041-3730, 03-041-3731,
03-041-3732, 04-041-0618, 04-041-1187

order of revocation

This matter came before the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board for hearing on December 12, 2003 at 9:00 a.m. The hearing was held before a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board (ìBoardî) consisting of Roscoe B. Stephenson, III, Chair, presiding, and Richard J. Colton, Robert E. Eicher, W. Jefferson OíFlaherty, lay member and Virginia W. Powell.

The Clerk of the Disciplinary System sent all notices required by law. The Respondent, Patrick Roger Owen, did not appear in person or by counsel.

Marian L. Beckett, Assistant Bar Counsel, represented the Virginia State Bar. The proceedings were recorded by Tracy J. Stroh, a registered professional reporter of the firm of Chandler & Halasz, P. O. Box 9349, Richmond, Virginia 23227, (804) 739-1222.

The Chair opened the hearing by calling all members of the panel as to whether there existed any conflict or other reason why any member should not sit on the panel. Each, including the Chair, responded in the negative.

The Virginia State Bar filed 12 exhibits that were received and accepted into the record. The Respondent filed no exhibits. Having considered the Petition and Order for Expedited Hearing, the exhibits, testimony and argument, the Board unanimously finds, by clear and convincing evidence, the following:

1.             The Respondent was licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia on April 30, 1992, and, as of the date of the hearing, is currently licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, his license was suspended on October 21, 2003 for nonpayment of Virginia State Bar dues and for failure to show attorney financial responsibility.

2.             The Respondent did not respond to the Barís request for information in any of these matters referred to above and failed to cooperate with the Barís investigation into all of the charges of misconduct detailed in the Petition.

3.             Virginia State Bar Investigator James W. Henderson made repeated attempts to reach the Respondent but was not able to locate him.

4.             It appears that Respondent has abandoned his law practice and left the state.


As to VSB Docket No. 03-041-3728

6.             Carolina Gomez, (hereinafter the ìComplainantî), hired the Respondent to obtain a green card for her and paid the Respondent an unspecified sum of money for fees and costs. Respondentís check subsequently written to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for costs on the Complainantís behalf was returned for insufficient funds, and the Complainant was forced to pay the fees a second time for processing of the required documents.

7.             The Respondent accepted payment from the Complainant but did not communicate with her regarding her case and failed to contact her regarding the status of the case. The Respondent abandoned the case without completion of the work paid for and left no forwarding address. In addition, the Complainantís file was not returned to her. As of the date of the Petition she had not received her green card.

8.             Complainant filed her complaint against Respondent on May 27, 2003.

9.             On June 6, 2003, Virginia State Bar intake counsel Jane A. Fletcher sent a letter and a copy of the complaint to the Respondent informing him that the Bar was conducting a preliminary investigation of the matter. The June 6th correspondence stated, inter alia, in bold, the following directive: ìplease review the complaint and provide this office with 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.î In addition, the June 6th correspondence advised the Respondent that failure to provide a written answer would result in the filing of the case with a district committee for further action.

10.          The Respondent made no written or other response to the Barís June 6, 2003 letter, and the matter was forwarded to Bar Counsel for further disposition.

11.          On July 8, 2003, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to the Respondent informing him that the matter had been referred to Section I of the Fourth District Committee for a more detailed investigation.

12.          The Respondent did not respond to the Barís July 8, 2003 letter.

13.          On July 9, 2003, the matter was assigned to a Virginia State Bar investigator.

14.          Virginia State Bar intake counselís letter of June 6, 2003, and notification from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that the check submitted by the Respondent on behalf of Carolina Gomez was returned by the bank were admitted as VSB Exhibit #1.

As to VSB Docket Number 03-041-3729

15.          Jose Cervantes, (hereinafter the ìComplainantî), hired the Respondent regarding an immigration matter, and paid the Respondent $6,052.00 for fees and costs. Respondentís subsequent check written to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for costs on the Complainantís behalf was returned for insufficient funds, and the Complainant had to pay the fees a second time for processing of the required documents.

16.          The Respondent accepted payment from the Complainant but did not communicate with him regarding his case and failed to contact him regarding the status of the case. The Respondent abandoned the case without completion of the work paid for, and left no forwarding address. In addition, the Complainantís file was not returned to him. As of the date of the Petition, the matter for which Respondent was hired has not been completed.

17.          The Complainantís complaint is undated, but it was received in the Intake Office of the Virginia State Bar on June 5, 2003.

18.          On June 6, 2003, Virginia State Bar intake counsel Jane A. Fletcher sent a letter and a copy of the compliant to the Respondent informing him that the Bar was conducting a preliminary investigation of the matter. The June 6th correspondence stated, inter alia, in bold, the following directive: ìplease review the complaint and provide this office with 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.î In addition, the June 6th correspondence advised the Respondent that failure to provide a written answer would result in the filing of the case with a district committee for further action.

19.          The Respondent made no written or other response to the Barís June 6, 2003 letter, and the matter was forwarded to Bar Counsel for further disposition.

20.          On July 8, 2003, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to the Respondent informing him that the matter had been referred to Section I of the Fourth District Committee for a more detailed investigation.

21.          The Respondent did not respond to the Barís July 8, 2003 letter.

22.          On July 9, 2003, the matter was assigned to a Virginia State Bar investigator.

23.          Receipts indicating payments by the Complainant to the Respondent, Virginia State Bar intake counselís letter of June 6, 2003, and notification from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that the check submitted by the Respondent on behalf of Jose Cervantes was returned by the bank were admitted as VSB Exhibit #2.

As to VSB Docket Number 03-041-3730

24.          Juan Meza, (hereinafter the ìComplainantî), hired the Respondent to obtain a green card for him. Copies of certain documents completed by the Respondent were provided to the Complainant, but it is alleged that either the documents were never filed with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or that the matter was abandoned without completion by the Respondent. The Complainant never received the green card which he hired the Respondent to obtain.

25.          The Respondent accepted payment from the Complainant but did not communicate with him regarding his case and failed to contact him regarding the status of the case. The Respondent abandoned the case without completion of the work paid for, and left no forwarding address. In addition, the Complainantís file was not returned to him. As of the date of the Petition, he had not received his green card.

26.          Proof that the Respondent accepted representation of the Complainant and prepared documents on his behalf is reflected in a portion of the documents admitted as VSB Exhibit #3.

27.          Complainant filed his complaint on May 29, 2003.

28.          On June 6, 2003, Virginia State Bar in take counsel Jane A. Fletcher sent a letter and a copy of the compliant to the Respondent informing him that the Bar was conducting a preliminary investigation of the matter. The June 6th correspondence stated, inter alia, in bold, the following directive: ìplease review the complaint and provide this office with 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.î In addition, the June 6th correspondence advised the Respondent that failure to provide a written answer would result in the filing of the case with a district committee for further action.

29.          The Respondent made no written or other response to the Barís June 6, 2003 letter, and the matter was forwarded to Bar Counsel for further disposition.

30.          On July 8, 2003, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to the Respondent informing him that the matter had been referred to Section I of the Fourth District Committee for a more detailed investigation.

31.          The Respondent did not respond to the Barís July 8, 2003 letter.

32.          On July 9, 1002, the matter was assigned to a Virginia State Bar investigator.

33.          Documentation indicating preparation of documents by the Respondent and Virginia State Bar intake counselís letter of June 6, 2003 were admitted as VSB Exhibit #3.

As to VSB Docket Number 03-041-3731

34.          Ramon Meza, (hereinafter the ìComplainantî), hired the Respondent to obtain a green card and paid the Respondent $2,449.00 for fees and costs. Respondentís subsequent check written to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for costs on behalf of the Complainant was returned for insufficient funds, and the Complainant had to pay the fees a second time for processing of the required documents.

35.          The Respondent accepted payment from the Complainant but did not communicate with him regarding his case and failed to contact him regarding the status of the case during the pendency of his representation. The Respondent abandoned the case without completion of the work paid for, and left no forwarding address. As of the date of the Petition, the Complainant had not received the green card for which purpose the Respondent was hired.

36.          The Complainant filed his complaint on May 27, 2003.

37.          On June 6, 2003, Virginia State Bar intake counsel Jane A. Fletcher sent a letter and a copy of the complaint to the Respondent informing him that the Bar was conducting a preliminary investigation of the matter. The June 6th correspondence stated, inter alia, in bold, the following directive: ìplease review the complaint and provide this office with 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.î In addition, the June 6th correspondence advised the Respondent that failure to provide a written answer would result in the filing of the case with a district committee for further action.

38.          The Respondent made no written or other response to the Barís June 6, 2003 letter, and the matter was forwarded to Bar Counsel for further disposition.

39.          On July 8, 2003, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to the Respondent informing him that the matter had been referred to Section I of the Fourth District Committee for a more detailed investigation.

40.          The Respondent did not respond to the Barís July 8, 2003 letter.

41.          On July 9, 2003, the matter was assigned to a Virginia State Bar investigator.

42.          In a letter dated September 9, 2003, the Respondent informed the Complainant that he would no longer be able to assist the Complainant in any further proceedings. The Respondent enclosed materials from the file with the correspondence and urged the Complainant to consult with another attorney ìas soon as possible.î

43.          Receipts indicating payments by the Complainant to the Respondent, notification from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that the check submitted by the Respondent on behalf of Ramon Meza was returned by the bank, Virginia State Bar intake counselís letter of June 6, 2003, and the Respondentís letter of September 9, 2003 were admitted as VSB Exhibit #4.

As to VSB Docket Number 03-041-3732

44.          Nicolas Meza, (hereinafter the ìComplainantî), hired the Respondent to obtain a green card for him and to file an I-485 for an adjustment of status. The Complainant paid the Respondent $4,163.00 for fees and costs to perform the requested work. Copies of certain documents completed by the Respondent were provided to the Complainant, but it is alleged that either the documents were never filed with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or that the matter was abandoned without completion by the Respondent. The Complainant never received the green card which he hired the Respondent to obtain.

45.          The Respondent accepted payment from the Complainant but did not communicate with him regarding his case and failed to contact him regarding the status of the case. The Respondent abandoned the case without completion of the work paid for, and left no forwarding address. In addition, the Complainantís file was not returned to him. As of the date of the Petition, he had not received his green card.

46.          Proof that the Respondent accepted representation of the Complainant and prepared documents on his behalf is reflected in a portion of the documents admitted as VSB Exhibit #5.

47.          Complainant filed his complaint on May 27, 2003.

48.          On June 6, 2003, Virginia State Bar intake counsel Jane A. Fletcher sent a letter and a copy of the complaint to the Respondent informing him that the Bar was conducting a preliminary investigation of the matter. The June 6th correspondence stated, inter alia, in bold, the following directive: ìplease review the complaint and provide this office with 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.î In addition, the June 6th correspondence advised the Respondent that failure to provide a written answer would result in the filing of the case with a district committee for further action.

49.          The Respondent made no written or other response to the Barís June 6, 2003 letter, and the matter was forwarded to Bar Counsel for further disposition.

50.          On July 8, 2003, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to the Respondent informing him that the matter had been referred to Section I of the Fourth District Committee for a more detailed investigation.

51.          The Respondent did not respond to the Barís July 8, 2003 letter.

52.          On July 9, 2003, the matter was assigned to a Virginia State Bar investigator.

53.          Documentation indicating preparation of documents by the Respondent, payment by the Complainant to the Respondent and Virginia State Bar intake counselís letter of June 6, 2003 were admitted as VSB Exhibit #5.

As to VSB Docket Number 04-041-0618

54.          The Complainant in this matter is Vernon Gutjahr, Esquire, an attorney whose primary area of practice is immigration law.

55.          One of the Complainantís immigration clients was a former client of the Respondent. The client, Mr. Arturo Macedo, had terminated his relationship with the Respondent, in writing, on July 1, 2003. Mr. Macedo had repeatedly requested the return of his file from the Respondent to no avail.

56.          The Complainant filed his complaint on August 15, 2003.

57.          On August 27, 2003, Virginia State Bar intake counsel James C. Bodie sent a letter to the Respondent requesting that he communicate with the Complainant regarding the transfer of the file in question, indicating that a resolution of the matter would avoid the necessity of the Barís opening a formal ethics inquiry. The August 27th correspondence stated, inter alia, in bold upper case letters the following directive: ìPLEASE SEND ME YOUR RESPONSE TO THIS REQUEST WITHIN TEN (10) DAYS OF THIS LETTER.î

58.          The Respondent made no written or other response to intake counselís August 27, 2003 letter, and an active investigation file was opened and assigned to Bar Counsel. On September 17, 2003, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to Respondent, enclosing the complaint, and stating, inter alia, in bold, underlined text, the following directive: ìplease review the complaint and provide this office with 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.î

59.          The Respondent did not respond to the Barís September 17, 2003 letter.

60.          On September 26, 2003, the matter was assigned to a Virginia State Bar investigator.

61.          A receipt for payment from the Complainantís client to the Respondent and the Virginia State Bar intake counselís letter of August 27, 2003 were admitted as VSB Exhibit #6.

As to VSB Docket Number 04-041-1187

62.          Wing Yin Leung, (hereinafter the ìComplainantî), paid the Respondent $1,920.00 for fees and costs on or about October 2 002, to obtain a green card for her. The Complainant subsequently paid the Respondent $300.00 on or about February 2003, to perform an adjustment of immigration status for her husband. It is alleged that the Respondent never performed any work regarding the obtaining of a green card or the adjustment of status.

63.          On or about September, 2003, the Respondent returned client documents to the Complainant with a cover letter explaining that it was necessary for him to move out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for health reasons, and that he had unilaterally decided to terminate the green card proceedings.

64.          Subsequent investigation by Complainantís succeeding counsel revealed no filings on behalf of the Complaint with either the Department of Labor or the Virginia Employment Commission. No documents were found to have been filed on behalf of the Complainantís husband.

65.          On November 6, 2003, Bar Counsel directed a letter of that date to the Respondent, enclosing the complaint, and stating, inter alia, in bold, underlined text, the following directive: ìplease review the complaint and provide this office with 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.î

66.          The Respondent made no written or other response to the Barís November 6, 2003 correspondence.

67.          On November 6, 2003, the matter was assigned to a Virginia State Bar investigator. Due to the indications that Respondent had abandoned his law practice, an abbreviated investigation was conducted.

68.          A draft indicating payment by the Complainant to the Respondent and Bar Counselís letter of November 6, 2003 were admitted as VSB Exhibit #7.

69.          The Bar did not seek to establish a receivership, as it appeared that there were no files or funds to be received, distributed or disbursed.

70.          The existence and location of the Respondentís files, if any, is unknown.

71.          Enrique Vargas, who formerly worked as a paralegal for the Respondent, informed Virginia State Bar investigator James Henderson that the last time he had occasion to inquire regarding the Respondentís trust account at Wachovia Bank, he learned that rather than the expected balance of $8,000.00 to $10,000.00, the balance was minus $5.00. Mr. Vargas stated that the Respondent had two accounts at Wachovia Bank, an operating account from which he was paid, and a trust account for client funds. Documents subpoenaed from Wachovia Bank bear no evidence that either of those two accounts remains in existence. The Respondent appears to have most recently had two accounts at Wachovia which were both personal accounts. The narrative report of investigator James Henderson was admitted as VSB Exhibit #8.

72.          The narrative report of Virginia State Bar investigator Robert K. Smith was admitted as VSB Exhibit #9.

73.          The narrative report of Virginia State Bar investigator James W. Henderson dated November 20, 2003 was admitted as VSB Exhibit #10.

74.          The Affidavit of Martha S. Shippee, Senior Staff Assistant for Membership, was admitted as VSB Exhibit #11.

75.          The Notice of Hearing was admitted as VSB Exhibit #12.

The Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that Respondentís conduct described above constitutes a violation of the following provisions of the following Rules of Professional Conduct:

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.

RULE 1.16 Declining or Terminating Representation

(e)     All original, client-furnished documents and any originals of legal instruments or official documents which are in the lawyerís possession (wills, corporate minutes, etc.) are the property of the client and shall be returned to the client upon request, whether or not the client has paid the fees and costs owed the lawyer. If the lawyer wants to keep a copy of such original documents, the lawyer must incur the cost of duplication. Upon request, the client must also be provided copies of the following documents from the lawyerís file, whether or not the client has paid the fees and costs owed the lawyer: lawyer/client and lawyer/third-party communications; the lawyerís copies of client-furnished documents (unless the originals have been returned to the client pursuant to this paragraph), pleadings and discovery responses; working and final drafts of legal instruments, official documents, investigative reports, legal memoranda, and other attorney work product documents prepared for the client in the course of the representation; research materials; and bills previously submitted to the client. Although the lawyer may bill and seek to collect from the client the costs associated with making a copy of these materials, the lawyer may not use the clientís refusal to pay for such materials as a basis to refuse the clientís request. The lawyer, however, is not required under this Rule to provide the client copies of billing records and documents intended only for internal use, such as memoranda prepared by the lawyer discussing conflicts of interest, staffing considerations, or difficulties arising from the lawyer/client relationship.

RULE 8.4 Misconduct

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(b)     commit a criminal or deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyerís honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer;

(c)     engage in professional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

imposition of sanctions

After announcing its findings, the Board was informed by Bar Counsel that there is no evidence of prior record. The Board then deliberated on sanctions and determined that the license to practice law in the courts of this Commonwealth heretofore issued to Patrick Roger Owen be revoked, effective December 12, 2003.

It is further ORDERED pursuant to Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13.M. of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Respondent shall forthwith give notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, of the Revocation of his license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, to all clients for whom he is currently handling matters and to all opposing attorneys and presiding judges in pending litigation. The Respondent shall also make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters then in his care in conformity with the wishes of his client. Respondent shall give such notice within 14 days of the effective date of the Revocation, and make such arrangements as are required herein within 45 days of the effective date of the Revocation. The Respondent shall also furnish proof to the Bar within 60 days of the effective date of the Revocation that such notices have been timely given and such arrangements made for the disposition of matters.

It is further ORDERED that if the Respondent is not handling any client matters on the effective date of his Revocation, he shall submit an affidavit to that effect to the Clerk of the Disciplinary System at the Virginia State Bar. All issues concerning the adequacy of the notice and arrangements required by Paragraph 13(M) shall be determined by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board.

It is further ordered that the Clerk of the Disciplinary System send by certified mail, Return Receipt Requested, an attested and true copy of this Order of Revocation to Respondent, Patrick Roger Owen, at his address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 1110 North Glebe Road, Suite 200, Arlington, Virginia 22201-4795 and to Marian L. Beckett, Assistant Bar Counsel, by first class regular mail, to 100 North Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.

The Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs pursuant to Part VI, ß 14,  13.B.8.c of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court.

 

ENTER this Order this ____ day of _____________, 200_.

 

VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD

 

Text Box: 99900.001503 RICHMOND 1112229v4By                                                                                           
Roscoe B. Stephenson, III
Chair of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board