BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY
IN THE MATTER OF
PAUL CHARLES WALSH
VSB Docket 00-051-2118
THIS MATTER came to be heard on August 23, 2002, before a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board, consisting of Karen A. Gould, Second Vice Chair, Theophlise L. Twitty, James L. Banks, Jr., Bruce T. Clark and V. Max Beard, Lay Member.
The Respondent, Paul Charles Walsh, appeared pro se. Noel D. Sengel, Assistant Bar Counsel, appeared on behalf of the Virginia State Bar.
This matter came before the Board by certification of a subcommittee of the Fifth District. The matter was considered by the subcommittee on December 11, 2001.
All required legal notices were properly sent by the Virginia State Bar.
The Chair polled the panel members to determine whether any member had a personal or financial interest in this matter that might affect or reasonably be perceived to affect his or her ability to be impartial in this proceeding.
Each member, including the Chair, responded in the negative.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Upon consideration of the testimony presented and the exhibits introduced, the Board makes the following findings of fact:
1. At all times relevant hereto, Paul Charles Walsh, Esquire (hereinafter the Respondent), has been an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. On June 16, 1999, the Respondent filed a Bill of Complaint for Divorce for his client Timothy Livengood, in Livengood v. Livengood, Chancery No. 161281, in the Circuit Court of Fairfax County, Virginia. He also made a payment for filing fees of $64.00 by a check drawn a personal checking account. The check was returned to the Clerk's Office marked "nonsufficient funds."
3. On June 28, 1999, the Complainant, John T. Frey, Clerk of the Fairfax County Circuit Court, had a member of his staff write to Mr. Walsh requesting that he pay the filing fee as well as the $25.00 statutory fee for checks returned to a Court Clerk's office. This letter was sent by certified mail. The Respondent did not respond to the letter from the Clerk's office.
4. The Complainant's office wrote to the Respondent again by certified mail on September 21, 1999, requesting payment and between September 21, 1999 and February 16, 2000, made seven phone calls to the Respondent's office attempting to contact him to resolve the matter of the unpaid fees.
5. When the Complainant filed his complaint with the Virginia State Bar on February 27, 2000, his office had still not received the Respondent's payment of the filing fee and returned check fee.
6. On March 13, 2000, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel, Noel D. Sengel, referred this matter to the Fifth District Committee Section 1 for further investigation. A letter notifying the Respondent that the Bar had commenced action on the complaint it had received was mailed to the Respondent on that date. On March 24, 2000, the Complainant received a replacement check in the amount of $89.00 for the filing fee and returned check fee.
7. In the course of his investigation,
Bar Investigator James R. Dooley, Jr. discovered that the Respondent had been
administratively suspended on October 14, 1999. Notice of such suspension was
mailed to the Respondent at his office address (which was his official address
of record) on October 15, 1999. By check dated July 28, 2000, the Respondent
sent in a dues payment, plus late fees, totaling $400.00 to the Membership Department
of the Virginia State Bar. On August 7, 2000, the Membership Department sent
a letter to the Respondent notifying him that he had met his fee obligations
and that his license to practice law in the Commonwealth had been reinstated.
However, the Respondent's fee payment was returned to the State Bar's office
by the Respondent's bank with a notice from the bank marked "non-sufficient
funds" and, on August 14, 2000, the Respondent was notified by certified mail
addressed to his office address that he was administratively suspended again
for non-payment of Bar dues. It was not until February 22, 2001 that the Respondent's
license was reinstated to practice law in Virginia.
8. According to the court file on
Livengood v. Livengood, Chancery No. 161281,
Respondent continued to represent Timothy Livengood in this divorce during the time the
Respondent was administratively suspended from October 14, 1999 until February 22, 2001.
9. The Respondent asserted that he never saw the first certified notice sent to him by the circuit court and was unaware his initial check to the Circuit Court had been returned. While acknowledging that his bank regularly sends him statements concerning his account, he asserted that he never received notification from the bank that it had dishonored his check.
He further asserted that upon receipt of the second notice on September 21, 1999, he had instructed a staff member to make the check good, but that he failed to follow up on the matter to confirm whether she had carried out his instructions. In addition, Respondent denied having received or having been told about any of the seven phone calls placed to his office by the circuit court, six of which were placed after the time he states he had instructed the payment to be made. He further asserted that he does not recall having received any notices concerning the suspension of his license for nonpayment of dues and admitted that during the entire time his license was so suspended, he continued to practice without interruption.
Having reviewed the clear record
of repeated communications which were addressed to
the Respondent both at his home and office, the Board finds it impossible to believe that the Respondent was unaware of the returned check and that he was unaware his license to practice was suspended. The Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent has not been candid with the Board regarding his knowledge of the returned check and being suspended and, in fact, has lied to the Board about the state of his knowledge.
The Board finds the actions of the Respondent constitutes misconduct in violation of the
following Disciplinary Rules of the revised Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility:
DR 1-102. Misconduct.
(A) A lawyer shall not:
(3) Commit a crime or other deliberately
wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's fitness to practice law.
(4) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation which reflects adversely on a lawyer's fitness to practice law.
IT is FURTHER ORDERED that, as directed
in the Board's August 23, 2002, Summary Order in this matter, a copy of which
was served on Respondent by certified mail, Respondent must comply with the
requirements of Part 6, Section IV, Paragraph 13.K(1), of the Rules of the Supreme
Court of Virginia. The time for compliance with said requirements runs from
the August 23, 2002, effective date of the Summary Order. All issues concerning
the adequacy of the notice and arrangements required by the Summary Order shall
be determined by the Board.
Pursuant to Part 6,§IV, ¶13(K)(10) of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs.
It is further ORDERED that a copy teste of this Order shall be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the Respondent at his last address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 3229 Alice Court, Falls Church, Virginia 22044 and hand delivered to Noel D. Sengel, Assistant Bar Counsel, Virginia State Bar, 707 East Main street, Suite 1500, Richmond, Virginia 23219.
Donna T. Chandler, Chandler & Halasz, P. O. Box 9349, Richmond, Virginia 23227, 804-730-1222, was the reporter for the hearing and transcribed the proceedings.
ENTERED this Order this _____ day of August, 2002.
VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
KAREN A. GOULD, Second Vice Chairman