VIRGINIA:

BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD

 

In the Matter of
Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey

VSB Docket Nos: 00-061-3285

00-061-2787

00-061-2636

00-061-2099

 

ORDER OF SUSPENSION AND REVOCATION

THIS MATTER came before the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board (hereinafter referred to as the "Board"), sitting at the State Corporation Commission, Courtroom C, Tyler Building, in Richmond, Virginia, on August 23, 2002, for hearing before a duly convened panel consisting of John A. Dezio, Chair, presiding, and Thaddeus T. Crump, Lay Member Peter A. Dingman, Larry B. Kirksey and Roscoe B. Stephenson, III. The Virginia State Bar (hereinafter referred to as the "Bar") was represented by Richard E. Slaney, Esquire. The Respondent, Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey (hereinafter referred to as the "Respondent") did not initially appear at the outset of the hearing and arrived after the panel had begun its deliberations as to whether misconduct had taken place and, thereafter, remained present, pro se, until the conclusion of the hearing. Tracy J. Stroh, Chandler & Halasz, Registered Professional Reporters, P. O. Box 9349, Richmond, Virginia 23227 (phone number 804-730-1222), recorded the hearing after being duly sworn by the Chair. The panel was polled to determine whether any member had any business or financial interest or bias that would impair his ability to hear this matter fairly and impartially. Each member, including the Chair, responded in the negative.

Following a hearing on the evidence, the Board made the following findings as to each matter by clear and convincing evidence:

1. At all times relevant hereto, Respondent was an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

 

VSB DOCKET #00-061-3285 (MARY GAINES)

AND #00-061-2787 (TROY BURRELL)

2. Respondent represented Complainant Troy Burrell (hereinafter referred to as "Burrell") on criminal charges on September 20, 1999, in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond, at which time Burrell was sentenced to a total of fifteen (15) years in the penitentiary.

3. Subsequent to sentencing, Burrell requested in November of 1999 that Respondent seek a reduction of his sentence. Respondent advised Burrell that she would do so.

4. In addition, Respondent represented Burrell on an appeal from the trial court to the Court of Appeals. Respondent filed on November 17, 1999, a Notice of Appeal with the trial court and forwarded a copy of said Notice to the Court of Appeals.

5. In connection with the appeal, Respondent failed to confirm that the transcript of the proceedings in the trial court had been ordered for filing.

6. On February 9, 2000, the Court of Appeals sent Respondent a Show Cause Order requesting that she show cause by February 24, 2000, why the appeal should not be dismissed for failure to timely file the transcript of the proceedings or, in the alternative, a statement of facts. Respondent did not respond to the Show Cause Order and Burrell’s appeal was dismissed on Friday, March 3, 2000.

7. Respondent did not inform Burrell that the appeal had been dismissed.

8. Following the denial of the appeal, Burrell’s mother, Mary Burrell (hereinafter referred to as "Ms. Burrell"), spoke with Respondent, who falsely informed Ms. Burrell of a hearing on the Motion to Reduce Sentence scheduled for March 9, 2000, in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond. Respondent did not advise Ms. Burrell at that time that the appeal had been dismissed.

9. On March 9, 2000, Ms. Burrell and several family members went to the Richmond Circuit Court, only to discover no hearing was scheduled for Burrell. Respondent arrived on that date at the courthouse only after the Burrell family had left messages at her law office questioning her absence and the lack of a scheduled hearing.

10. No hearing had been scheduled and no Motion had been filed by Respondent. Respondent did not inform either Burrell or Ms. Burrell of her failure to file the Motion, but simply advised Ms. Burrell that she was unaware of why the hearing was not properly scheduled.

11. Respondent failed to communicate with Burrell about the status of his appeal and did not advise him of his right to appeal to the Supreme Court or to file a habeas corpus petition. Burrell, Ms. Burrell and several of the Burrell family members attempted to reach Respondent about the appeal and sentence reduction Motion. Respondent was aware that Burrell wanted her to communicate the status of his case with his mother. They were unsuccessful in speaking with her. Respondent did not return their calls or respond to Burrell’s letters.

12. Respondent indicated she anticipated filing a habeas corpus on behalf of Burrell, although she had never done one before and did not know what she was doing. Respondent did not file a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Burrell, although she advised his sister, Complainant Mary Gaines, in May, 2000, that she had done so and would forward her or Burrell a copy of the writ.

13. Respondent did not attempt to file an appeal on behalf of Burrell to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

14. Despite the denial of the appeal because of Respondent’s failure to properly perfect it, she continued to request and accept money from the Burrell family. In April of 2000, Respondent advised Ms. Burrell she would challenge Burrell’s sentencing hearing, but she would need to get a copy of the transcript and he would have to pay for it. On April 10, 2000, Ms. Burrell sent Respondent a cashier’s check in the amount of $175.00 for the transcript.

15. Respondent did not place this money in a trust account. She never ordered the transcript and did not return the money to Ms. Burrell until sometime after August, 2000.

Based upon the evidence presented, the Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey violated in matters #00-061-3285 and 00-061-2787 the following Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility:

DR 1-102. Misconduct.

(A) A lawyer shall not:

    1. Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation which reflects adversely on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law.

DR 6-101. Competence and Promptness.

(A) A lawyer shall undertake representation only in matters in which:

    1. The lawyer can act with competence and demonstrate the specific legal knowledge, skill, efficiency, and thoroughness in preparation employed in acceptable practice by lawyers undertaking similar matters, or
    2. (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.

      (C) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about matters in which the lawyer’s services are being rendered.

      DR 9-102. Preserving Identity of Funds and Property of a Client.

      (A) All funds received or held by a lawyer or law firm on behalf of a client, estate or a ward, residing in this State or from a transaction arising in this State, other than reimbursement of advances for costs and expenses, shall be deposited in one or more identifiable trust accounts and, as to client funds, maintained at a financial institution in a state in which the lawyer maintains a law office, and no funds belonging to the lawyer or law firm shall be deposited therein except as follows:

      (1) Funds reasonably sufficient to pay service or other charges or fees imposed by the financial institution may be deposited therein.

    3. Funds belonging in part to a client and in part presently or potentially to the lawyer or law firm must be deposited therein, and the portion belonging to the lawyer or law firm must be withdrawn promptly after they are due unless the right of the lawyer or law firm to receive it is disputed by the client, in which event the disputed portion shall not be withdrawn until the dispute is finally resolved.

Based upon the evidence presented, the Board finds that the allegation that Respondent violated DR 7-101(A)(3) (Representing a Client Zealously) was not proven by clear and convincing evidence.

VSB DOCKET #00-061-2636 (RUTH M. DUNCAN)

16. In May, 1996, Complainant Ruth Duncan (hereinafter referred to as "Duncan") retained the law firm of Stone and Associates to represent her in a personal injury matter. The cause of action arose from injury received on May 21, 1996.

17. At the time Duncan hired Stone and Associates, Respondent was an associate of the law firm. Initially, another attorney at the firm, William Stone, principally worked Duncan’s matter until he became disbarred. Thereafter, the Duncan file became the responsibility of Respondent, who was primarily responsible for all such personal injury matters.

18. On May 13, 1998, Respondent filed a Motion for Judgment against a sole defendant on Duncan’s personal injury matter in the Circuit Court for the City of Newport News. On June 8, 1998, the incorrectly named defendant filed responsive pleadings, including an affidavit denying ownership, operation, control and agency. On January 5, 1999, the correct defendant was served with an Amended Motion for Judgment through its Registered Agent. On November 4, 1999, Judge Edward L. Hubbard, sustained the correct defendant’s plea of the statute of limitations as a defense and the case was dismissed with prejudice.

19. Prior to filing of the Motion for Judgment, Respondent did not determine if the proper defendants were identified and were named in the lawsuit. Instead, she delegated the task to her paralegal, who herself made the determination.

Based upon the evidence presented, the Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey violated in matter #00-061-2636 the following Disciplinary Rule of the Code of Professional Responsibility:

DR 3-104. Nonlawyer Personnel.

  1. The delegated work of nonlawyer personnel shall be such that it will assist only the employing attorney and will be merged into the lawyer’s completed product. The lawyer shall examine and be responsible for all work delegated to nonlawyer personnel.

VSB DOCKET #00-061-2099 (VSB/ANONYMOUS)

20. In late 1997, Respondent agreed to represent Georgina and Nefteli Irizarry (hereinafter referred to as "Mrs. Irizarry", "Mr. Irizarry" or "the Irizarrys") in the adoption of their baby granddaughter. The Irizarrys were neighbors of Respondent. Therefore, she did not charge them for her services.

21. Prior to her agreeing to handle this adoption matter, Respondent had handled only two other adoption matters. Respondent believed the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court had jurisdiction over the matter and filed a Petition in the Williamsburg/James City County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

22. During testimony at a hearing in the adoption, it was revealed, contrary to the earlier assertions by the birth mother of the child, that the true identity of the child’s father was known to the child’s mother. The child’s mother likewise had information of his whereabouts. The presiding judge directed Respondent to investigate properly terminating a father’s parental rights. Respondent was unsure how to proceed and, thereafter, did very little to investigate the correct procedure and did not conclude the adoption.

23. Mr. Irizarry attempted to contact Respondent on many occasions, requesting her to conclude the adoption.

24. In October, 1998, Mr. Irizarry went to Respondent’s office where she personally gave him what was purportedly a copy of the Final Order of Adoption, as entered by the court. (Bar Exhibit #19).

25. On October 23, 1998, Mr. Irizarry presented the document (Bar Exhibit #19) to the Bureau of Vital Statistics to get a revised birth certificate for the child in question. At that time, he was told the document needed the court’s certification.

26. Mr. Irizarry advised Respondent of the response by the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Respondent assured him that she would correct it. A couple of days later, an allegedly certified version of the forged Final Order was left at the front door of the Irizarry home. (Bar Exhibit #20).

27. Mrs. Irizarry took the second version of the document (Bar Exhibit #20) back to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, where it was once again rejected. She was advised by the Bureau of Vital Statistics to go back to the court where the document was purportedly on file.

28. Mrs. Irizarry took the document (Bar Exhibit #20) to the Williamsburg/James City County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, where Clerk Betty Miller determined the document had several problems, one of which was that it bore the forged signature of the presiding judge. In addition, it was determined that the entire document was a forgery as the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court does not issue final adoption orders, that the purported court stamp was not authentic and that the presiding judge was not sitting in Williamsburg on the day the document was supposedly signed. The presiding judge also confirmed that the signature on the Final Order was not his signature.

29. A criminal investigation was begun. Upon execution of a search warrant, the office file of Respondent contained a proposed Final Order of Adoption, bearing only the signature of Respondent (Bar Exhibit #18).

30. The forged document (Bar Exhibits #19 and #20), bearing the forged signature of the presiding judge, was produced by Respondent and was supplied by Respondent to the Irizarrys in response to their requests for a copy of the Final Order of Adoption, as entered. Respondent falsely contends that she only once signed the document. (Trial Transcript, Commonwealth v. Amy-Pressey, p. 207, l. 17; p. 210, l. 6 through page 212, l. 13). Contrary to her testimony, it is clearly apparent even from a casual, lay examination that Respondent’s signature had occurred on more than one version of the document. (Bar Exhibits #19 and #20). Such false testimony by Respondent and other inconsistencies in her testimony lead the Board to the clear conclusion that the forged document was generated by Respondent in response to her clients’ concern for the delay in completing the adoption proceeding.

31. As admitted by Respondent, no one else aside from herself had any interest in the matter and no one else felt the pressure from the Irizarrys to complete the matter.

32. A polygraph examination of Respondent confirmed Respondent’s attempted deception on the forgery questions.

Based upon the evidence presented, the Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey violated in matter #00-061-2099 the following Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility:

DR 1-102. Misconduct.

(A) A lawyer shall not:

(3) Commit a crime or other deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.

(4) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation which reflects adversely on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law.

DR 6-101. Competence and Promptness.

(A) A lawyer shall undertake representation only in matters in which:

(1) The lawyer can act with competence and demonstrate the specific legal knowledge, skill, efficiency, and thoroughness in preparation employed in acceptable practice by lawyers undertaking similar matters, or

(2) The lawyer has associated with another lawyer who is competent in those matters.

(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.

(C) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about matters in which the lawyer’s services are being rendered.

Based upon the evidence presented, the Board finds that the allegations that Respondent violated DR 1-102(A)(1)(Misconduct), DR 1-102(A)(2)(Misconduct), and DR 7-101(A)(3)(Representing a Client Zealously) were not proven by clear and convincing evidence.

IMPOSITION OF SANCTIONS

The Board, having taken into consideration all of the evidence, found by clear and convincing evidence that the above-referenced violations have been committed by Respondent. Accordingly, it is ORDERED that, as a result of the violation in matters #00-061-3285 and #00-061-2787, Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey’s license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia be and hereby is SUSPENDED for a period of three (3) years and further ORDERED that, as a result of the violation in matter #00-061-2636, Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey’s license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia be and hereby is SUSPENDED for a period of one (1) year and one (1) day, and further ORDERED that, as a result of the violation in matter #00-061-2099, Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey’s license be and hereby is REVOKED, all effective August 23, 2002.

It is further ORDERED that, as directed in the Board’s August 23, 2002 Summary Order in this matter, Respondent must comply with the requirements of Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13.K(1), of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The time for compliance with said requirements runs from the effective date of the Summary Order. All issues concerning the adequacy of the notice and arrangements required by the Summary Order shall be determined by the Board.

It is further ORDERED that Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey shall furnish true copies of all of the notice letters to persons notified of the revocation, with the original return receipts for said notice letters to the Clerk of the Disciplinary System on or before October 23, 2002.

It is further ORDERED that costs shall be assessed against the Respondent in accordance with the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13(K)(10), and the Respondent shall comply therewith.

It is further ORDERED that the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall send an attested copy of this Order to the Respondent, Andrea Kimberly Amy-Pressey, at her address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 2907 Robert Hunt North, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185-8335, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail, and that a copy be provided by mail or hand delivery to Richard E. Slaney, Esquire, Assistant Bar Counsel, Virginia State Bar, 707 East Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, Virginia 23219-2800.

ENTERED this ______ day of__________________, 2002.

 

VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD

 

By:________________________________________

John A. Dezio, Chair