BEFORE THE FIFTH DISTRICT SECTION II COMMITTEE OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR
IN THE MATTER OF RONALD ALBERT ROBINSON, JR., ESQ.
VSB DOCKET NUMBER 02-052-3288
ADMONITION WITH TERMS
On January 20, 2004, a hearing in this matter was held before the duly convened Fifth District Committee Section II consisting of Thomas P. Sotelo, Esq., Donald Francis King, Esq., Daniel M. Rathbun, Esq., Joseph C. Fleig, William V. Hanson, John DiZeriga, and Stephen H. Ratliff, Esq., presiding.
Pursuant to Part 6, § IV, ¶ 13(B)(6) of the rules of the Supreme Court, the Fifth District Committee Section II of the Virginia State Bar hereby serves upon the Respondent the following Public Reprimand with Terms:
I. FINDINGS OF FACT
1. At all times relevant hereto the Respondent, Ronald Albert Robinson, Jr., Esq. (hereinafter the Respondent), has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. In June of 2000, the Complainant, Wanda Fox, hired the Respondent to assist her in getting a modification of visitation. Ms. Fox had filed a motion for modification pro se. Ms. Fox paid the Respondent a total of $2,000.00 in advance fees.
3. A hearing in the matter was scheduled for October 4, 2000 in Fauquier County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. On October 3, 2000, Ms. Fox and the Respondent met to discuss the case. The next morning, the Respondent called Ms. Fox as she was leaving for court to inform her that he was ill and would not be attending the hearing. He told Ms. Fox to inform the judge. The Respondent did not send another attorney to cover for him. Ms. Fox appeared at the hearing without counsel and informed the judge of the Respondentís illness. The Judge continued the hearing. The Respondent informed Ms. Fox that the hearing had been rescheduled for December. However, Ms. Fox never received anything from the court and no hearing occurred. The Respondent then told Ms. Fox the hearing had been scheduled for a date in February of 2001. On that date in February, Ms. Fox took her children out of school because the Respondent had requested that she bring them to the court hearing, and met the Respondent at the courthouse. However, the court had no record of the matter being scheduled for that date and no hearing occurred.
4. Ms. Fox was informed that the hearing had been scheduled for a fourth date, August 13, 2001. However, after the Respondent learned a substitute judge would be sitting that date, he moved for a continuance on August 1, 2001. Without confirming whether or not his motion had been granted, the Respondent chose not to appear that day, and to serve a day of military reserve duty instead. The Respondent told Ms. Fox to appear and the court would grant her a continuance if her counsel were not there. Ms. Fox appeared. The judge was angry and attempted to contact the Respondent but could not. He threatened to find Ms. Fox in contempt and to put her in jail. The judge started the hearing, but after an hour, stopped it and continued it until August 29, 2001, telling Ms. Fox to be sure that the Respondent could appear to represent her on that date.
5. The Respondent had a scheduling conflict with the August 29, 2001 date. On August 22, 2001, he called the court to ask about rescheduling the matter, but was told the matter would go forward on August 29, 2001. Thereafter, the Respondent told Ms. Fox to hire another attorney to represent her just at the August 29, 2001 hearing. On August 27, 2001, Ms. Fox hired another attorney to represent her solely for purposes of the August 29, 2001 hearing and paid him approximately $2,000.00 to prepare for the hearing and appear with her. Her new attorney filed various pleadings and went with her to court that day. The Court continued the matter over to October 5, 2001. The Respondent attended the hearing with Ms. Fox on October 5, 2001, which resolved most issues between the parties regarding visitation.
6. On November 12, 2001, the Respondent sent Ms. Fox a bill for $7,861.20. It was the only bill the Respondent ever sent Ms. Fox during the seventeen months he represented her. The bill listed the total time spent on various broad categories, but did not list specific tasks or dates on which specific tasks were performed. Ms. Fox requested an itemized bill, but the Respondent has never provided her or the Bar with one. When asked by the VSB investigator how he kept time records in cases in which he billed on an hourly basis, the Respondent replied that at that time, he had no billing system, other than notes he made by hand on a legal pad when he was performing a task.
II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT
The Committee finds by clear and convincing evidence that the following Disciplinary Rules have been violated:
RULE 1.3 Diligence
(a) A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
RULE 1.4 Communication
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
RULE 1.5 Fees
(b) The lawyer's fee shall be adequately explained to the client. When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the amount, basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated to the client, preferably in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation.
III. ADMONITION WITH TERMS
Accordingly, it is the decision of the Committee to impose an Admonition with Terms, compliance with which by December 31, 2004 shall be a predicate for the disposition of this complaint by imposition of an Admonition with Terms. The terms and conditions which shall be met by December 31, 2004 are:
1. The Respondent shall forthwith engage the services of and fully cooperate with a law office management consultant acceptable to the Bar, to conduct a full and complete review and make written recommendations concerning the Respondent's law practice policies, methods, systems, and procedures, including, but not limited to, his billing practices, scheduling, tickler/calendaring systems which remind him of important dates, and a system for monitoring possible conflicts. The Respondent shall institute and thereafter follow with consistency any and all recommendations made to him by the approved law office management consultant following the evaluation of the Respondent's practice. The Respondent shall grant the law office management consultant access to his law practice from time to time, upon request, for purposes of ensuring that Respondent has instituted and is complying with the law office management consultantís recommendations. The Virginia State Bar shall have access (by way of telephone conferences and/or written reports) to the law office management consultantís findings and recommendations, as well as the assessment of the Respondent's level of compliance with the recommendations. Respondent will have discharged his obligations respecting the terms contained in this Paragraph 1 if he has fulfilled and remained in compliance with all of the terms contained herein through December 31, 2004.
Upon satisfactory proof that the above noted terms and conditions have been met, a Admonition with Terms shall then be imposed. If, however, the terms and conditions have not been met by December 31, 2004, an alternative sanction of a Public Reprimand shall be imposed.
Pursuant to Part Six, § IV, ¶13(B)(8)(c)(1) of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs.
FIFTH DISTRICT COMMITTEE SECTION II
OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR
Stephen H. Ratliff, Chair
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I certify that I have this _____ day of ___________________________, 2004, mailed a true and correct copy of the Committee Determination of a Admonition with Terms by CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, to the Respondent, Ronald Albert Robinson, Jr., at P.O. Box 4987, Woodbridge, VA 22194, his last address of record with the Virginia State Bar.
Noel D. Sengel