BEFORE THE THIRD DISTRICT COMMITTEE, SECTION TWO
OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR
IN THE MATTER OF
THOMAS HUNT ROBERTS
VSB Docket # 99-032-2070
DISTRICT COMMITTEE DETERMINATION
(PUBLIC DISMISSAL WITH TERMS)
On June 13, 2003, a hearing in this matter was held before a duly convened panel of the Third District Committee, Section Two, consisting of W. Ray Inscoe, Lay Member; Thomas O. Bondurant, Esq.; Virginia S. Duvall, Esq.; William S. Francis, Jr., Esq.; William J. Viverette, Esq.; and Cary A. Ralston, Esq., chair, presiding. The Respondent, Thomas Hunt Roberts, appeared in person, pro se. Deputy Bar Counsel Harry M. Hirsch appeared for the bar. At the beginning of the hearing, dismissal motions were made by Thomas Hunt Roberts and argued by counsel. At the end of the bar's case, a motion to strike was made by Thomas Hunt Roberts and argued by counsel. All of said motions were denied by the District Committee. Pursuant to Part 6, § IV, ¶ 13.H.2.l.(2)(c) of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the Third District Committee, Section Two, of the Virginia State Bar hereby serves upon the Respondent the following Dismissal with Terms:
I. FINDINGS OF FACT
1. At all times relevant hereto the
Respondent Thomas Hunt Roberts [Roberts] has been an attorney licensed to practice
law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. On May 7, 1997, Complainant Leroy M. Thurston, Jr. [Thurston] entered into a retainer agreement for Roberts to pursue on Thurston's behalf claims "arising from his employment at Louisa County Public Schools - Wage Violation FSLA & Title VII - race discrimination & retaliation."
3. On or about March 17, 1998, Thurston signed a settlement statement in the FSLA claim.
4. During the pendency of the remaining claims of race discrimination and retaliation, Thurston asked Roberts to lend him money. Roberts arranged for and made a loan of $5,000.00 to Thurston and his wife [loan] through Bost Investment Corporation [Bost].
5. According to Roberts, he and his law firm owed Roberts' father money. Roberts disbursed to the Roberts Professional Law Corporation out of Roberts' operating account the sum of $5,000.00 by check number 10173, dated September 28, 1998, which was then deposited into a trust account of the law firm.
6. Roberts then issued two trust account checks. The first check dated September 29, 1998, was in the amount of $4,900.00, number 6883, payable to Thurston and his wife as net loan proceeds. The second check dated September 29, 1998, was in the amount of $100.00, number 6884, payable to the law firm as an earned fee for the loan transaction.
7. Said deposit and disbursements were shown on a subsidiary ledger for Bost Investment Corporation [Bost]. The deposit was shown as received from "Thomas H. Roberts/for Thomas J. Ro." The check payable to the Thurstons of $4,900.00 was noted as "Bost/TJR proceeds." The check payable to the law firm was noted as "Fee earned-Bost."
8. On September 29, 1998, Thurston and his wife executed a document entitled, "Promissory Note Bost Investment Corporation Credit Agreement" dated September 29, 1998, in the amount of $10,000.00 [note]. The note had the following provisions, inter alia: payment to Bost or order, at the street address of Roberts' law firm, the sum of $10,000.00 with interest from March 9, 1999 [sic] until paid at 18% per annum until paid [sic]; principal payable on demand, interest payable monthly; and that the loan proceeds were for a commercial purpose.
9. On September 29, 1998, Thurston and his wife also executed a document entitled, " Credit Line Deed of Trust," dated September 28, 1998, in which Thurston and his wife are named as borrowers, Bost is named as the beneficiary at the address of Roberts' law firm and reference is made to a $10,000.00 credit agreement. The deed of trust conveys Thurston's property located at 647 Chopping Road, Mineral, VA 23117 in Louisa County, Virginia as security for the credit agreement.
10. On September 29, 1998, Thurston and his wife also executed a document entitled, "Acknowledgment"in which they acknowledged, inter alia, that Roberts advised them against the loan, that Roberts represented Bost in the loan and not the Thurstons, and that Louisa County may make a settlement offer in Thurston's pending case within the week.
11. Roberts was the only officer of Bost in the years of 1998, 1999 and 2000 as reflected in annual reports submitted by Roberts to the State Corporation Commission for those years. Roberts was either the sole stockholder or the majority stockholder of Bost.
12. Roberts' representation of Thurston in the racial discrimination and retaliation case against the Louisa County School Board ended on March 22, 1999 with the entry of orders granting the defendant summary judgment and granting Roberts' motion to withdraw.
II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT
The following Disciplinary Rules
are deemed to have been violated:
DR 1-102. Misconduct.
(A) A lawyer shall not:
(2) Circumvent a Disciplinary Rule through actions of another.
DR 5-103. Avoiding Acquisition of Interest in Litigation.
(A) A lawyer shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation he is conducting for a client, except that he may:
(1) Acquire a lien granted by law to secure his fee or expenses.
(2) Contract with a client for a reasonable contingent fee in a civil case.
(B) While representing a client in connection with contemplated or pending litigation, a lawyer shall not advance or guarantee financial assistance to his client, except that the lawyer may advance or guarantee the expenses of litigation, including court costs, expenses of investigation, expenses of medical examination, and costs of obtaining and presenting evidence, provided the client remains ultimately liable for such expenses.
The District Committee dismissed an allegation of a violation of DR 8.1(c).
III. DISMISSAL WITH TERMS
Accordingly, it is the decision of
the District Committee to offer the Respondent an opportunity to comply with
certain terms and conditions, compliance with which will be a predicate for
closure of this complaint. The terms and conditions shall be met by June
13, 2004: 1. The Respondent shall take eight (8) hours of continuing
legal education on the subject of legal ethics and certify to the Office of
Bar Counsel the completion of said hours. Said hours shall be in addition to
the bar's mandatory continuing legal education requirements and the Respondent
shall not obtain any mandatory continuing legal education credit for said hours.
2. The Respondent shall perform forty (40) hours of pro bono legal services through Central Virginia Legal Aid. The Respondent shall be responsible for obtaining a certification of completion of said hours from Central Virginia Legal Aid and he shall provide said certification to the Office of Bar Counsel. Upon satisfactory proof that such terms and conditions have been met, this matter shall be closed. If, however, the terms and conditions are not met by June 13, 2004, the District Committee shall impose a Public Reprimand. The Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs. THIRD DISTRICT COMMITTEE OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR
By Cary A. Ralston, Chair
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I certify that I have this ______
day of June, 2003, mailed by CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, a true
and correct copy of the District Committee Determination (Public Dismissal with
Terms) to the Respondent, Thomas Hunt Roberts, at Roberts Professional Law Corp.,
105 South First Street, Richmond, VA 23219, his last address of record with
the Virginia State Bar.