VIRGINIA:



BEFORE THE NINTH DISTRICT COMMITTEE OF THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR



IN THE MATTER OF GAY LYNN TONELLI

VSB Docket No. 00-090-2323 (Patricia Davis)





DISTRICT COMMITTEE DETERMINATION

(PUBLIC REPRIMAND)



On November 16, 2001, a hearing in this matter was held before a duly convened panel from the Virginia State BarNinth District Committee consisting of Phillip Dandridge Payne,IV, Esquire, Kimberley Slayton White, Attorney at Law, Paul Joseph Feinman, Esquire, Ms. Langhorne S. Mauck, lay member, Mr. Theodore Bruning, lay member, and Charles Glasgow Butts, Jr., Chair presiding. The bar appeared by its Assistant Bar Counsel Paul D. Georgiadis.



Despite being given due notice, having actual notice, and being under subpoena to appear, the Respondent failed to appear. Pursuant to the Rules of Court, Part 6, IV: 13(B)(6)(a), Respondent was sent the Notice of Hearing to her last reported address of record on or about September 18, 2001. Actual notice was confirmed by Respondent's counsel L.F. Tyler, III, who contacted the bar in this matter on November 7, 2001. By posted service on October 24, 2001, Respondent received a Summons to Appear at the hearing.



Pursuant to Virginia Supreme Court Rules of Court Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13(B)(7) and Council Rule of Disciplinary Procedure V, the Ninth District Committee of the Virginia State Bar hereby serves upon the Respondent, Gay Lynn Tonelli, the following Public Reprimand.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

1. At all times material to these allegations, the Respondent, Gay Lynn Tonelli, hereinafter "Respondent", has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.



2.On or about April 28, 1998, Respondent entered into an Agreement To Provide Legal Services in which she agreed to represent the Complainant Patricia L. Davis, ("Davis") in "Negotiation of Separation, Settlement and Custody Agreement, Contested Action for Divorce." The Agreement provided for an initial payment of $500.00 to be billed against at $95.00 per hour for attorney services and $30.00 per hour for paralegal services. It further provided that Respondent would notify Davis when the retainer fell below $500.00 to request replenishment and that Respondent would send itemized bills "from time to time." Finally, it provided that representation would commence upon initial payment of the $500.00.



3. On or about April 28, 1998, Davis paid Respondent the requested initial advance payment of $500.00.



4. From April 28, 1998 to the Spring of 2000 when she was discharged, Respondent failed to prepare a property settlement agreement and failed to reasonably advise Davis of the status thereof. In the Fall of 1998, Respondent presented to Davis a template of a property agreement for review. Davis inserted the changes so that the template document applied to her facts and circumstances. Within days of receipt, Davis returned the agreement by hand to Respondent. Despite making repeated telephone calls to Respondent's office to inquire about the status of the separation agreement, Davis did not receive any further information until the Summer of 1999 when she picked up the separation agreement from Respondent's office for further review and revision. Davis made revisions and returned the separation agreement the next day. Thereafter, Respondent failed to finalized the property settlement agreement to present to Davis' spouse for consideration.



5. During the fall of 1999, Davis made weekly and then nearly daily telephone calls to inquire about her case status. Respondent failed to respond to said telephone calls.



6. In the absence of a finalized property settlement agreement to present for consideration and negotiation, Davis' marital home and household property therein were lost to foreclosure in late 1999.



7. In late 1999, Respondent advised Davis that prior to hiring a new attorney Davis had to obtain from Respondent a release from the engagement agreement. At that time, Davis requested such release and Respondent refused to give the release pending payment of unspecified legal fees.



8. Notwithstanding the terms of the Agreement To Provide Legal Services, not withstanding Respondent's claims of unpaid legal fees, and notwithstanding Davis' requests for a statement, Respondent failed to provide any itemized statements at any time during the representation.



9. During the investigation of the aforesaid matters from January 2001 to March 2001, the bar's investigator has repeatedly attempted to contact Respondent by telephone and by a letter. To the numerous requests for an interview, Respondent replied only once by telephone and promised to send the bar investigator a copy of her file and then to arrange an appointment to meet the investigator for an interview. Respondent has done neither, in spite of repeated further contacts by the bar.



II. NATURE OF MISCONDUCT

Such conduct on the part of Respondent constitutes misconduct in violation of the following Disciplinary Rules of the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility:



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.

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

RULE 8.1 Bar Admission And Disciplinary Matters



An applicant for admission to the bar, or a lawyer in connection with a bar admission application, in connection with any certification required to be filed as a condition of maintaining or renewing a license to practice law, in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not:



The Committee found a partial violation of Disciplinary Rule 2-105 (A) as follows:

DR 2-105. Fees.

(A) A lawyer's fees shall be adequately explained to the client.

III. IMPOSITION OF PUBLIC REPRIMAND

Accordingly, it is the decision of the Committee to impose a Public Reprimand on Respondent, Gay Lynn Tonelli, and she is so reprimanded.



Pursuant to Virginia Supreme Court Rules of Court Part 6, Section IV, 13(K)(10), the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs.



Ninth District Committee

Of the Virginia State Bar

 



By

Charles Glasgow Butts, Jr.

Chair Presiding









CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I certify I have this the _____ day of _____________, 2001, mailed by CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, a true and complete copy of the District Committee Determination (Public Reprimand ) to Ms. Gay Lynn Tonelli, Suite B, 145 King Street P.O. Box 567, Keysville, VA 23947, her last address of record with the Virginia State Bar and to her counsel, L.F. Tyler, III, Esquire at Pettus & Tyler, P.C., 201 King Street, Keysville, VA 23947.



__________________________________

Assistant Bar Counsel