BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
IN THE MATTER OF MICHAEL MEADE PALMER
VSB DOCKET NO. 02-070-3520
AFFIDAVIT DECLARING CONSENT TO REVOCATION
Michael Meade Palmer, after being duly sworn, states as follows:
1. That he was licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia on October 9, 1998.
2. That pursuant to Part 6, § IV, ¶ 13(L) of the Rules of Virginia Supreme Court:
a. his consent to revocation is freely and voluntarily rendered, that he/she is not being subjected to coercion or duress, and that s/he is fully aware of the implications of consenting to a revocation;
b. he is aware that there is a proceeding against him involving allegations of misconduct, the specific nature of which is set forth in the attached Statement of Facts which is incorporated into this Affidavit by reference;
c. he acknowledges that the material facts upon which the allegations of misconduct are predicated are true;
d. he submits this Affidavit and consents to the revocation because he knows that if disciplinary proceedings based on the alleged misconduct were brought or prosecuted to a conclusion, he could not successfully defend them.
Dated this _____ day of ___________________________, 2004
Michael Meade Palmer
STATE OF VIRGINIA AT LARGE, to wit:
I, __________________________________, a Notary Public in the state aforesaid, do hereby certify that ________________________ appeared in person before me in the City/County of __________________, Virginia, on this ____ day of ______________________, 2002, and was by me duly sworn and thereupon executed in my presence and acknowledged to me the truth and voluntariness of the foregoing Affidavit Declaring Consent to Revocation and Statement
GIVEN under my hand this _____ day of _____________________________, 2004.
My Commission expires: ___________________.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
1. At all times relevant hereto, Michael Meade Palmer, Esquire (hereinafter the Respondent), has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. In January of 2001, the Complainant, S. Crisler Lindsay, Esquire, was hired by Sam and Betty Butler to assist them in recovering possession of some real estate in Fauquier County, Virginia, which they had rented to Gwen and David Pricer in September of 2000. The property consisted of approximately twenty-six (26) acres of land, a cottage and a barn. The Pricers had not paid the security deposit in full and had stopped paying rent in October of 2000. The Pricerís stopped paying rent because the water and electricity were terminated. They hired the Respondent to represent them.
3. Mr. Lindsay filed an unlawful detainer in Fauquier County General District Court on the behalf of the Butlers. A hearing was held in the spring of 2001, and the judge returned possession of the property to the Butlers. The Court abated all security deposits and rents and dismissed the counter-claim in the General District Court.
4. The Respondent appealed the decision, on behalf of the Pricers, to the Circuit Court of Fauquier County within ten (10) days of the lower court's decision as required by law. The Pricer's made the same claim for damages that was dismissed in the general district court. The amount of damages sought by the Pricerís was $1,850,000. Mr. Lindsay countered and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of the Butlers.
5. In June of 2001, the Respondent requested a five (5)-day jury trial in the matter. The case was scheduled for trial in April of 2002. There is no evidence to conclude that any action taken by the Respondent was frivolous.
6. During the winter and spring of 2002, the Respondent was hospitalized for substance abuse. Judge Parker was aware of the Respondent's hospital stay and wrote to him, asking him if he needed a continuance for the Pricer case in April. The Respondent answered Judge Parker by letter, which was signed by Mrs. Pricer as the Respondent's paralegal, informing the judge that he would be prepared for the case in April. He also appeared at a pre-trial hearing on March 26, 2002, and reiterated that he would be prepared for the trial on April 22, 2002.
7. The Respondent failed to respond to Mr. Lindsay's request for information for subpoenas for the Pricers' expert witnesses. He also failed to provide complete answers to interrogatories and to provide all documents requested. The Pricer's did not have an expert and could not afford to hire one.
8. Mr. Lindsay scheduled a hearing for 1:00 p.m. on April 15, 2002 to determine why the Respondent had failed to supply witness information and complete discovery. The Respondent responded with his own motion to compel which was never presented because the Respondent did not appear. Mrs. Price explained to Judge Parker that the Respondent was "confused" and unable to appear. The Judge told Mrs. Pricer to find the Respondent and to return to court with him by 2:00. Mrs. Pricer returned and informed the Court that she had been unable to locate the Respondent.
9. On April 22, 2002, the opening day of trial, the Respondent did not appear in court. Mr. and Mrs. Pricer appeared unrepresented and requested a continuance, but the judge denied their request. Their suit was non-suited and the trial proceeded on the Butlers' counter-claim/unlawful detainer. The Respondent did make contact with Ms Pricer mid-day of the first day of trial. Ms Pricer approached the Court and informed Judge Parker that she had made contact with the Respondent. At which time the Court stated that if the Respondent appeared he would be recognized by the court and be permitted to finish the unlawful detainer trial representing the Pricers. An effort was made for the Respondent to fly from Charleston, SC, but there were no flights that would allow him to return in time to make any significant contribution to the Pricerís cause. The Pricers and the Respondent then agreed that he would stay in South Carolina and assist Ms Pricer over the phone in closing the trial. The trial was completed in two days, and the Court entered an order giving possession of the property to the Butlers.
10. A week later, the Respondent filed a notice and motion to Amend Final Order to have the judge's order changed. Since the Respondent was obviously in Virginia, the judge issued a Rule to Show Cause and set the hearing for May 8, 2002. Judge Parker denied the Respondentís motion to amend the final order. The Complainant immediately prepared the order as a meeting was scheduled to following day at 9:00AM with the Judge and Gwen Pricer. Ms. Pricer did not appear at the meeting. For their part, none of the Pricer's recalls a meeting being scheduled at the courthouse for entry of the order. Instead, the Pricer's waited at their home to meet with Mr. Lindsay in order to review and sign the proposed order.
11. On May 8, 2002, the Respondent appeared before Judge Parker. He informed the Judge that on February 3, 2002, the Respondent checked himself into the Veteran Administration Medical Center, Martinsburg, West Virginia, and preliminarily assessed as suffering from bi-polar disorder and substance abuse. The Respondent was not in the end diagnosed as bi-polar. The Respondent was discharged under medication, but had stopped taking the medication soon thereafter.
12. Judge Parker was also aware that the Respondent had failed to appear in court the day before the Pricers' trial to represent three criminal defendants for whom he been appointed counsel by the court. The judge found the Respondent in criminal contempt of court, delaying the disposition for one year, and removing him from the cases of the three indigent criminal defendants and from the Pricers' case. During the hearing, the Respondent told the Court that he was under a great deal of stress and had a drinking problem. The Respondent advised the Court that he was seeking help for his problems. In addition, the Respondent violated the Courts' order when he phoned the Court and requested a hearing with Judge Parker to prevent the Butlerís from resorting to self-help. The phone call was made because the Pricerís son was involved in an altercation with the Butler's after the Butler's tried to block ingress and egress to the property being rented by the Pricers. Ultimately, Judge Burke F. McCahill dismissed the contempt charge on September 12, 2002.
13. The Court also ordered the Respondent to have nothing to do with the Pricer/Butler case. As a result, of the Court's ruling Ms. Pricer chose to represent herself and continues to represent herself. Ms. Pricer has appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Virginia. Ms. Pricer cannot afford to retain counsel to represent her interests in the Pricer/Butler litigation.
14. In his interviews with Virginia State Bar Investigator Albert E. Rhodenizer, Jr. in late August and early September of 2002, the Respondent claimed that sometime not long before the Pricers' trial on April 22, 2002, he woke up overwhelmed, confused and panicked. He then went to his brother's home in Northern Virginia, where he stayed for a few days. He then took a bus to South Carolina. He did not return to Warrenton for the trial on April 22, 2002. He had not informed the Pricers that he would not be present at the trial to represent them.
15. The Respondent, in an interview with bar investigator A. E. Rhodenizer, confirmed that he has had many health problems. The Respondent went on to say that, his health problems caused him to close his law practice and to take a leave from practicing law. The Respondent has acknowledged that a personal relationship with Ms Pricer developed while she was working in his office and she was his client.