IN THE MATTERS OF
TIMOTHY SCOTT RENICK
VSB DOCKET N0S. 02-060-2481 [Hyatt]
02-060-3694 [VSB/Commissioner of Accounts]
On June 6, 2003, a meeting in these matters was held before a duly convened Sixth District Subcommittee consisting of Mark A. Butterworth, Lay Member; Gilbert A. Bartlett, Esq. and William L. Lewis, Esq., chair, presiding.
In these matters the bar was represented by Deputy Bar Counsel Harry M. Hirsch and the Respondent was represented by Michael L. Rigsby, Esq.
Pursuant to Part 6, Section IV, Paragraph 13.G.1.c. of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the Sixth District Subcommittee of the Virginia State Bar hereby serves upon the Respondent the following Public Reprimand:
1. At all times relevant hereto the Respondent, Timothy Scott Renick [Renick], has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. In March of 2001, Complainant Rosa E. Hyatt [Hyatt] had an initial appointment with Renick concerning the filing of a bankruptcy. She was quoted a fee of $700.00 including an attorney's fee of $500.00 and a filing fee of $200.00. Renick did not inform Hyatt that she needed to pay the $700.00 before he would begin work on her case. Renick did tell Hyatt to stop paying on her bills, to notify her creditors that she was filing bankruptcy, to have her creditors call Renick if they contacted Hyatt and Renick asked Hyatt to provide a list of creditors. No written fee agreement was entered into.
3. On March 18, 2001, Hyatt brought a check in the amount of $350.00 [first payment] to Renick's office with a list of her creditors. Upon payment of that check, Hyatt understood that Renick would begin work on her case.
4. From March 18, 2001 until July 16, 2001, Hyatt called Renick on three occasions and left messages. On July 16, 2001, Hyatt called because she had not heard anything; Hyatt was told by Renick's mother who worked in his office on a part-time basis that full payment was due before work would begin on the case.
5. On July 17, 2001, Hyatt issued Renick a check in the amount of $350.00 [second payment], thus fully paying Renick his quoted fees and costs.
6. Both the first payment and the second payment were deposited into Renick's operating account. The first payment was deposited on March 20, 2001. The second payment was deposited on July 26, 2001.
7. Hyatt signed the bankruptcy petition on or about September 10, 2001.
8. According to Renick, Hyatt's file was mistakenly placed with unpaid files and from September to November of 2001, the case "fell through the cracks."
9. In December 2001, Hyatt began receiving calls from creditors again. She asserts that she attempted to reach Renick over a two week period by leaving telephone messages at Renick's office without response.
10. On January 22, 2002, Hyatt determined that she would see Renick in person that day. She went to his office and waited until everyone else had left the premises. Renick saw her in the office and asked who she was. Hyatt confronted Renick about the unreturned phone calls and the status of her case. Renick informed her that he was sure her case had been filed but he could not find the file. Hyatt became upset because she had no more funds to hire another attorney. Hyatt asked Renick whether she could trust him. Renick responded affirmatively and promised to telephone Hyatt the next morning at 9:30 a.m. Renick did not make the promised call. Hyatt did not hear from Renick again until after she filed a bar complaint.
11. On or about February 14, 2002, Hyatt filed a bar complaint. Letters regarding the complaint were sent by the bar to Hyatt and Renick on March 4, 2002. Renick received his letter from the bar on March 6, 2002.
12. On March 4, 2002, Renick filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition on Hyatt's behalf.
13. By his letter to Hyatt dated March 7, 2002, Renick stated, inter alia, that, "Your bankruptcy was filed long before I received this complaint ..."
14. Renick wrote Hyatt by letter dated March 11, 2001 [sic] giving notice of the meeting of creditors. By letter to Hyatt dated March 14, 2002, Renick offered to refund $500.00 and finalize the case at the meeting of creditors; he also inquired whether Hyatt wished him to continue representing her. Renick refunded to Hyatt $500.00 by a personal check enclosed with a March 25, 2002 letter.
15. Renick submitted a response to the bar complaint dated March 26, 2002, in which he stated, inter alia, that, "I have spoken with Rosa E. Hyatt in connection with the above referenced matter and it is my understanding that she does not want to pursue this matter any further." Hyatt disputes this statement insisting that in their March 25, 2002 phone call she told Renick that it was alright for Renick to refund the fee and finalize the bankruptcy; but as to the bar complaint she understood that it was no longer in her hands. According to Hyatt, she did not tell Renick that she no longer wished to pursue the bar complaint.
16. Renick represented Hyatt at the meeting of creditors held on April 11, 2002. Renick has stated that at the meeting Hyatt told him she would refer clients to him; he has stated that she in fact sent four or five clients to him including her next door neighbor since the meeting of creditors. Hyatt denies that she had referred anyone to Renick. According to Hyatt, at the creditors' meeting she told Renick she would not speak ill of him to others but she would not recommend him to anyone.
17. A discharge was issued in Hyatt's bankruptcy on June 20, 2002.
18. In his letter to the bar dated October 24, 2002, Renick stated, inter alia, the following:
There appears to be two (2) major issues of concern that you
[Investigator Powell] expressed concerning this file. The first
deals with the fact that Ms. Hyatt's fee was deposited into my
expense account by mistake....Normally, we would deposit the
filing fee in the Trust Account. However, it is my position that
the bankruptcy fee of $500.00 is a set fee, just like a criminal
case. This fee is not a retainer and is not subject to increase or
19. Renick received the fees paid by Hyatt before he had earned them.
20. Hyatt attempted to contact Renick by telephone on many occasions during the representation. Renick failed to return Hyatt's telephone calls despite the fact that Hyatt left messages for Renick. If called to testify in any trial of this case, Renick would testify that he denies that he ever knowingly failed to return Hyatt's telephone calls.
Such conduct by Timothy Scott Renick
constitutes misconduct in violation of the following provisions of the Virginia
Rules of Professional Conduct:
RULE 1.3 Diligence
A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
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.
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 1.5 Fees
A lawyer's fee shall be reasonable. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:
the time and labor required,
the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill
requisite to perform the legal service properly;
the likelihood, if apparent
to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will
preclude other employment by the lawyer;
the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
the amount involved and the results obtained;
the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and
whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
RULE 8.4 Misconduct
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
engage in professional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
21. On or about October 18, 2001, Renick qualified as administrator c.t.a. of the Estate of John Franklin Odor. Mrs. Odor had met with Renick in July 2001 when Renick agreed to handle her husband's estate. The estate consisted of a 1967 Mustang, $1,000.00 of personalty and an Ameritrade stock account. Renick effected the transfer of all stocks and open cash accounts from the Ameritrade account of John Odor to the Ameritrade account of Mrs. Odor on January 9, 2002.
22. Commissioner of Accounts Richard Manson [Manson] sent Renick a letter dated November 19, 2001, with general information concerning the duties of a court-appointed fiduciary and the filing requirements of an inventory and accountings. An inventory of an estate is due within four months after the fiduciary's qualification in circuit court. The first accounting is due sixteen months after qualification followed by annual accountings until the estate is completed.
23. An inventory should have been filed in the Odor estate on or before February 17, 2002. The first accounting should have been filed in the Odor estate on or before February 17, 2003.
24. On February 21, 2002, Manson sent Renick a letter in which he recited the inventory filing requirement and requested that Renick file an inventory.
25. On March 21, 2002, Manson again wrote to Renick regarding the inventory filing requirement for the estate.
26. On April 19, 2002, Manson called Renick's office and left a phone message.
27. On April 25, 2002, Manson issued a summons to Renick upon his failure to file an estate inventory. The summons was served upon Renick on May 1, 2002. Renick then filed an inventory for the estate.
28. On May 3, 2002, Manson wrote Renick indicating that Renick had failed to return any of Manson's messages, that Manson had no record of Renick having recorded a notice of probate required to be filed within thirty days of qualification in accordance with Va. Code Section 64.1-122, and Renick had filed a deficient inventory. The inventory which Renick had filed had an incorrect total and lacked specificity with respect to the listed assets.
29. On June 1, 2002, Manson wrote to Judge Johnson of the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond requesting a hearing on the summons. On the same date Manson reported the situation to the Virginia State Bar in accordance with Va. Code Section 26-18. A show cause was issued by the court on May 30, 2002, for a June 24, 2002 hearing date.
30. The notices of probate which were required to be filed within thirty days of qualification were not issued by Renick until June of 2002.
31. On June 20, 2002, Renick sent Manson by fax a second inventory in draft form with a letter in which Renick stated that his staff takes care of the majority of the paperwork associated with estates and he admitted that the first inventory which had been filed had the vehicle improperly listed, had no personalty listed and reflected an incorrect total value of the assets. Manson responded by a fax of the same date instructing Renick to be in court on the show cause on June 24, 2002.
32. At the show cause hearing on June 24, 2002, Renick told the court that he was working on an inventory. The proceeding was continued.
33. On June 24, 2002, Renick wrote to Mrs. Oder seeking information for the administration of the estate.
34. On July 30, 2002, Renick wrote to Manson by fax enclosing a third inventory and indicating, inter alia, that the stock was held by the Oders jointly with Mrs. Oder as the beneficiary. Manson responded the same date by fax asking Renick to provide confirmation of the ownership of the stock.
35. The pending show cause proceeding was continued on two additional dates until Manson was able to approve Renick's final accounting.
36. On September 30, 2002, Renick billed Mrs. Odor a total of $2,848.50 which he reduced by fifty per cent. He received a total of $1,424.00 as attorney's fees in the matter from Mrs. Odor.
37. On or about September 7, 1999, Renick qualified as executor of the estate of Patricia E. Aliff. Aliff died testate on February 21, 1999.
38. An inventory was due to be filed in the Aliff estate on or before January 7, 2000. The first accounting was due to be filed on or before January 7, 2001, followed by annual accountings thereafter until completion of the estate administration.
39. On January 7, 2000, William W. Richardson, III [Richardson], Commissioner of Accounts at that time, issued a rule to show cause to Renick requiring him to report to Richardson by February 4, 2000 to show cause why an inventory had not been filed in accordance with Va. Code Section 26-12. The rule was personally served on Renick on January 11, 2000.
40. On January 13, 2000, Richardson sent a letter to Renick pointing out the provisions of Va. Code Section 26-18 which required him to report to the Virginia State Bar the failure to file an inventory within thirty days of service of a summons. Richardson also asked Renick to file an inventory before the thirty days had passed.
41. On February 1, 2000, Renick faxed to Richardson an unsigned inventory.
42. By letter dated February 2, 2000, Renick informed Richardson that Aliff had a pending Chapter 13 bankruptcy at the time of her death which was dismissed on October 20, 1999.
43. On February 2, 2000, Richardson approved a more complete inventory dated that date which Renick had submitted.
44. By letter dated March 1, 2001, Audrey D. Holmes [Holmes], who had succeeded Richardson as Commissioner of Accounts for New Kent County, Virginia, notified Renick that the first accounting was due by January 7, 2001, assessed a personal penalty of $25.00 for failure to timely file a settlement of accounts and notified Renick that within thirty days he was to file a settlement of accounts in proper form as well as a personal check in the amount of $25.00.
45. Renick wrote to Holmes on March 8, 2001, enclosing an expense account check of $25.00 and indicating that he was waiting for information from an English hospital concerning an outstanding bill.
46. On October 4, 2001, Annie Mae from Renick's office left a telephone message for Holmes indicating that she had an estate question.
47. In November and December of 2001, Renick exchanged correspondence regarding the outstanding English hospital bill of approximately $11,219.00.
48. By letter dated January 7, 2002, Renick filed a "settlement of account" with Holmes. However, the filing actually was only an incomplete account summary sheet which Renick had signed.
49. By letter dated January 22, 2002, Holmes wrote to Renick returning the filing because it was incomplete, enclosing forms to help Renick, and noticing Renick that if he did not comply she would begin procedures in accordance with Va. Code Section 26-18 for enforcement.
50. On February 14, 2002, Renick wrote to Holmes filing another settlement of account with affidavits from his office staff regarding the hospital bill but without any supporting schedules.
51. By letter dated May 6, 2002, Renick wrote Holmes seeking "...what else you need to finalize this Estate," and stating that "I am definitely not any type of Estate expert!"
Such conduct by Timothy Scott Renick constitutes misconduct in violation of the following provisions of the Virginia 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.
Accordingly, it is the decision of the subcommittee to issue to the Respondent a Public Reprimand and the Respondent is hereby so reprimanded.
Sixth District Subcommittee
Of The Virginia State Bar
William L. Lewis
I certify that I have this day of June, 2003, mailed by CERTIFIED
MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, a true and correct copy of the Subcommittee
Determination (Public Reprimand) to Timothy Scott Renick, Respondent, at 2111 Pocahontas Trail, Quinton, VA 23141-0070, his last address of record with the Virginia State Bar, and by regular first class mail to Respondent's counsel, Michael L. Rigsby, Esq.