V I R G I N I A:
BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
IN THE MATTER OF TERRY LEE VAN HORN
VSB Docket No. 03-000-0266
ORDER OF REVOCATION
This matter came before the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board for hearing on September 27, 2002, before a duly convened panel of the Board consisting of Dennis P. Gallagher, Lay Member, James L. Banks, Jr., William C. Boyce, Jr., Robert L. Freed, and Randy Ira Bellows (The "Chair"), presiding, pursuant to order dated August 2, 2002, requiring Terry Lee Van Horn (the "Respondent") to appear before this Board to show by clear and convincing evidence that he has not violated an Order that the Disciplinary Board issued on May 20, 2002 (the "Suspension Order").
Bar Counsel, Barbara Ann Williams, ("Bar Counsel") appeared as Counsel for the Virginia State Bar (the "VSB"). Respondent failed to appear after the clerk called his name three times in the hallway outside the courtroom, nor did any counsel appear on his behalf.(1) The court reporter for the proceeding, Donna T. Chandler, of Chandler and Halasz, Post Office Box 9349, Richmond, Virginia 23227, (804) 730-1222, was duly sworn by the Chair. All legal notices of the date and place of this hearing were timely sent by the Clerk of the Disciplinary System in the manner prescribed by law. The Chair polled the Board members and determined that no member had a conflict of interest.
Upon the witnesses testimony, the exhibits presented by Bar Counsel on behalf of the VSB and admitted into evidence as Exhibits 1 through 3 and 5 through 17, and upon argument by Bar Counsel, this Board finds clear and convincing evidence that:
1. At the request of Mr. Van Horn's counsel, and over Bar Counsel's objection, the panel of the Board that issued the Suspension Order afforded the Respondent an extra month to wind up his law practice and that, instead of becoming effective on the hearing date of April 26, 2002, the Respondent's three-year Suspension of his license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia took effect on May 27, 2002 (the "Effective Date"). After the Effective Date, the Respondent continued to represent clients, including but not limited to a matter undertaken after the Effective Date in which the Respondent represented a seller in a real estate closing; misrepresented to the seller's father that Respondent was not practicing law by preparing legal documents; prepared legal documents, including but not limited to a deed; transmitted the legal documents to the seller for her signature; deposited the proceeds check made payable to the seller in his trust account without the seller's permission or signature; and deducted without the seller's permission a legal fee of $750.00 for handling the sale.
2. The Suspension Order imposed notice obligations upon the Respondent to give notice, by June 3, 2002, by certified mail, return receipt requested, of the suspension of his license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia to any and all clients for whom he was then handling matters; and, to all opposing counsel and presiding judges in any pending litigation in which he was an attorney of record. The Respondent failed to notify any judges and failed to notify all of his clients and all of opposing counsel of his suspension by June 3, 2002. The notices that the Respondent did in fact send were not sent by the June 3, 2002 deadline.
3. The Suspension Order also required the Respondent to make appropriate arrangements by July 5, 2002 (the actual date was July 4, 2002, a National Holiday), for the disposition of matters that were then in his care in conformity with the wishes of his clients. Not only were all of these arrangements not made, but:
a. The Bar's witnesses consistently testified that it was difficult or impossible to communicate with the Respondent. While one witness testified that there was still a plaque on Mr. Van Horn's office door proclaiming "Terry L. Van Horn, Attorney at Law," the door was locked, his office telephone number had been disconnected, there was no other published telephone listing for him, and his residence address was not generally known, thus making it impossible for his clients to obtain their files from him.
b. The Respondent has failed and continues to fail to return client files, despite his obligation under the Suspension Order to make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of all client matters by July 5, 2002.
c. The Respondent has failed to return unearned legal fees to his ex-clients.
4. The Suspension Order also required the Respondent by July 19, 2002, to furnish proof to the Bar that all such notices were timely given and all such arrangements were properly made. It was not until July 26, 2002, that the VSB Clerk's office finally received Mr. Van Horn's sworn and notarized Affidavit dated July 26, 2002. It stated, in part: ". . . I do not have any clients for whom I am currently working." VSB Exhibit 3. The Respondent's failures set out in paragraph 3, above, make Respondent's July 26, 2002, sworn Affidavit false.
Thus, the Board found by clear and convincing evidence multiple violations of the Suspension Order as well as the requirements and obligations of a suspended attorney as set forth in the Rules of the Supreme Court, Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13.
Respondent's egregious and flagrant violations of this Board's Suspension Order can not be tolerated since such violations are likely to result in injury to, or loss of property of, one or more of his former clients or other persons. The Suspension Order states that "[a]ll issues concerning the adequacy of the notice and arrangements required herein shall be determined by the Board, which may impose a sanction of revocation or further suspension for failure to comply with the requirements of this Order. . . ."
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that, pursuant to Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13(I)(2) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the license of Respondent to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia shall be, and is hereby, REVOKED effective September 27, 2002 (the "Revocation Effective Date")..
It is FURTHER ORDERED that pursuant to the provisions of Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph13(M) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, that Respondent shall forthwith give notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, of this REVOCATION of his license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia to all clients for whom he is currently handling matters and to all opposing attorneys and presiding judges in pending litigation in which he is involved. Respondent shall also make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters then in his care, in conformity with the wishes of his clients. Respondent shall give such notice within 14 days of the Revocation Effective Date, and make such arrangements as are required herein within 45 days of the Revocation Effective Date. Respondent shall furnish proof to the Virginia State Bar within 60 days of the Revocation Effective Date that such notices have been timely given and such arrangements for the disposition of matters made. Issues concerning the adequacy of the notice and the arrangement required herein shall be determined by the Board.
It is FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall send an attested and true copy of this order and opinion to Respondent by certified mail, return receipt requested, at his address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 513 Forest Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23229-6850, and by Regular mail to his counsel, Michael L, Rigsby, Midkiff, Muncie & Ross, P.C., 9030 Stony Point Parkway, Suite 160, Richmond, Virginia 23235; and, to Barbara Ann Williams, Bar Counsel, 707 East Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, Virginia, 23219-2803.
It is FINALLY ORDERED that the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs pursuant to Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13(B)(8)(c) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
SO ORDERED, this ____ day of October, 2002.
Randy Ira Bellows, First Vice Chair
1. Respondent's counsel, Michael L. Rigsby, sought a continuance of the proceeding. In a telephone hearing conducted by Disciplinary Board Chairman John A. Dezio on September 3, 2002, that motion was denied.
2. All references are to the Consolidated Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13 Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia effective September 18, 2002.