IN THE MATTER OF SANG KUEN PARK, ESQUIRE
VSB Docket Number 00-052-1892 and 00-052-1959
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, the Respondent, Sang Kuen Park, Esquire (hereinafter Respondent), has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. In 1993, Jae W. Jeong, a Korean national, hired the Respondent to assist him and his wife, Young Joo Jeong, in obtaining visas that would allow them to work and live legally in the United States, and, ultimately, to become permanent residents. The Jeongs hired the Respondent based in part on the Respondent's claim that he was an expert in immigration law. About ten percent of the Respondent's law practice actually consisted of immigration law work.
3. Immediately after being hired by the Jeongs, the Respondent filed applications for work (H-1) and dependency (H-4) visas for the Jeongs which initially were rejected by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The Respondent failed to file the correct application fee for Mr. Jeong's application which caused both Mr. and Mrs. Jeong's applications to be denied initially. When Mr. Jeong asked the Respondent about the status of the applications, the Respondent told Mr. Jeong that the applications had been delayed because Mr. Jeong's employer, Pen, Inc., had been late in providing the correct information.
4. In May of 1993, the Jeongs' work and dependency visas were issued. They were valid until April 30, 1996, and could be renewed for one additional three-year period. The Respondent continued to represent the Jeongs in obtaining their permanent residency visas. By August of 1995, the Respondent had all the necessary documentation, including an affidavit from Mr. Jeong's employer, which had been executed on July 28, 1995, for filing a complete I-140 application for permanent residency for the Jeongs. The Respondent informed the Jeongs that he had filed the appropriate application with the INS. For the next eighteen months, during numerous conversations, the Respondent told the Jeongs that he was monitoring their application and that the application was moving through the process and that all delays in the application's finalization were just part of the process.
5. In early 1996, while waiting for the INS to process their permanent residency application, the Jeongs realized that their visas would expire on April 30, 1996. They asked the Respondent to file applications that would extend their visas for another three years. The Respondent waited until five days before the Jeongs' visas expired to file the applications, and filed the extension application with an expired labor certification. The applications were denied. The Respondent then obtained an affidavit from Mr. Jeong's employer, placing the blame on the employer for the out-of-date labor certification, and proceeded to appeal the INS decision.
6. In February of 1997, after the Jeongs raised the issue of the delay in their case with Mr. Moon, the managing attorney of the Respondent's law firm, a search of the firm's files showed that the Jeongs' application for permanent residency had been placed in a file with a similar name which file had been closed and placed among the firm's closed files.
7. On February 18, 1997, eighteen months after he told the Jeongs that he had filed their application, the Respondent actually filed the application with the INS. On or about February 25, 1997, the Respondent admitted to the Jeongs that he had, in fact, just filed their application with the INS, and had not done so in September of 1995 as he told them. The Jeongs asked the Respondent for copies of what he had actually filed. The Respondent could not locate a copy of a dated cover letter he had sent to the INS when he filed the application, so he manufactured one, with the date of February 6, 1997. The Respondent presented the letter to the Jeongs as a copy of the actual cover letter he had sent with their application. The Jeongs fired the Respondent and hired other counsel to handle their immigration matter.
8. The Jeongs hired the law firm of Sherman & Fromme to file a malpractice suit against the Respondent. Prior to the filing of the suit, the firm gave the Respondent notice of the claim and demanded that the Respondent inform his malpractice carrier. The Respondent did not do so in a timely manner, and the carrier refused to provide coverage.
9. The malpractice case, Jeong, et al. v. Park, et al., L178097, was heard by a jury in the Fairfax County Circuit Court in early January of 2000. On January 7, 2000, the jury found for the Jeongs and awarded them $35,000.00, including $20,000.00 in punitive damages. The Respondent appealed the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court, but certiorari was denied. The
Respondent has paid the judgment in full. After the trial, the Sherman & Fromme law firm and the presiding judge both filed complaints with the Bar against the Respondent.
The Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that such conduct on the part of Sang Kuen Park, Esquire constitutes a violation of the following Disciplinary Rules:
DR 1-102. Misconduct.
(A) A lawyer shall not:
(4) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation which reflects adversely on a lawyer's fitness to practice law.
DR 2-104. Specialists; Limitation
(A) A lawyer shall not hold himself
out publicly as, or imply that he is, a recognized or certified specialist except
in accordance with either DR 2-101, DR 2-102 or DR 2-103, or except as follows:
(1) A lawyer admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation Patents, Patent Attorney, or Patent Lawyer, or any combination of those terms, on his letterhead and office sign. A lawyer engaged in the trademark practice may use the designation Trademarks, Trademark Attorney, or Trademark Lawyer, or any combination of those terms, on his letterhead and office sign, and a lawyer engaged in the admiralty practice may use the designation Admiralty, Proctor in Admiralty, or Admiralty Lawyer, or any combination of those terms, on his letterhead and office sign.
DR 6-101. Competence and Promptness.
(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.
It is hereby ORDERED that the Respondent
shall receive a Public Reprimand, upon entry of this Order, as representing
an appropriate sanction if this matter were to be heard.
It is further ORDERED that, pursuant to the Rules of Virginia Supreme Court, Part 6, §IV, ¶13(B)(8)(c)(1), the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs.
The Court Reporter for this hearing was Donna T. Chandler, Chandler and Halasz, P.O. Box 9349, Richmond, VA 23227, telephone (804) 730-1222.
It is further ORDERED that a copy teste of this Order shall be mailed by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, to the Respondent Sang Kuen Park, Esquire, at Moon, Park & Associates, 7617 Little River Turnpike, Suite 930, Annandale, VA 22003, his last known address of record with the Virginia State Bar, and by first class mail, postage prepaid, to Respondent's counsel, Timothy J. Battle, Esquire, at P.O. Box 19631, Alexandria, VA 22320-9631, and to Senior Assistant Bar Counsel Noel D. Sengel, Virginia State Bar, 100 North Pitt Street, Suite 310, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Karen A. Gould, Second Vice Chair