BEFORE THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
IN THE MATTER OF VSB Docket # 01-010-2534
PAUL DENNIS ZIEGLER, JR.
OPINION AND ORDER OF A PUBLIC REPRIMAND
This matter came to be heard on May 17, 2002 in the matter of Paul Dennis Ziegler, Jr., VSB Docket No. 01-010-2534 before a panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board convened in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Tweed Courtroom, Tenth and Main Streets, Fourth Floor, Richmond, Virginia 23219 and composed of Randy I. Bellows, Second Vice Chair, presiding, James L. Banks, Jr., Werner H. Quasebarth, Anthony J. Trenga and H. Taylor Williams, IV. The Virginia State Bar appeared through Assistant Bar Counsel, Edward L. Davis. The Respondent, Paul Dennis Ziegler, Jr., appeared through his counsel, Stephen J. Burgess. The matter was presented to the Disciplinary Board by way of a Certification of the First District Subcommittee. Based on the stipulations and evidence presented, the Board issued a public reprimand and in support of that public reprimand issues the following opinion and findings.
The Bar alleged the following facts:
At all times relevant hereto, the Respondent, Paul Dennis Ziegler,
Jr. (hereinafter “Ziegler” or “Respondent”) has been
an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
On October 23, 2000, the Respondent stole a wristwatch valued at $49.95
from the Andrews Air Force Exchange, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, by
placing the watch in his shorts pocket, walking to the checkout counter where
he paid for another item, and exiting the exchange without paying for the
watch. A loss prevention officer observed him in the Exchange, and followed
him outside of the Exchange, where he found him at the food court tinkering
with the watch. The loss prevention officer continued to observe the
Respondent at the food court for about four minutes, and then apprehended
3. The Respondent, an officer in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps at the time, was charged with larceny, in violation of Article 121, Uniform Code of Military Justice. In lieu of trial by court-martial, his command offered him Non-Judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, an administrative procedure. The Respondent consented to this procedure, and the presiding officer found the evidence sufficient to sustain the charge of larceny. He imposed a punitive letter of reprimand as punishment. The Respondent did not appeal the decision.
Based on these allegations, the Bar alleged a violation of Rule 8.4(b) and (c) of the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility, as revised. Those provisions provide as follows:
RULE 8.4 Misconduct
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
(b) commit a criminal or deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer; and
(c) engage in professional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
By stipulation, and without objection, the Bar’s and Respondent’s Exhibits were admitted into evidence, including a store security videotape of the Respondent engaging in the conduct at issue, the admission of which was stipulated to by the parties. The Bar called the Respondent, Paul Dennis Ziegler, Jr. as its only witness.
The Respondent is a Lieutenant in the Judge Advocates Corp. of the United States Navy. He testified that on the day in question he entered the Base Exchange (“BX”) to look at wristwatches. After looking at a number of watches, he put one on his wrist and then later put it in his right pocket as he continued to look at others. Eventually, he proceeded to the cashier where he paid for headphones that he had also selected, but not the watch. From the cashier, he walked into the adjacent food court where he purchased some food and beverage and while standing in line realized for the first time that he had placed the watch in his pocket and had not paid for it. Although he testified that he intended to return to the BX to pay for the watch, he proceeded to a table in the food court, took the watch out of his left pocket and began adjusting it. After some observation, security guards approached him and escorted him back into the BX.
The Respondent chose an Article 15 “Captain’s Mast,” as a result of which the presiding officer found the evidence sufficient to sustain the charge of larceny and issued a letter of reprimand as a punishment. As a result of this punishment, the Respondent has concluded that his career as a Naval officer is effectively over since it is unlikely that he would be promoted in the future. Recognizing his prospects, the Respondent has tendered his letter of resignation to the Navy, which, once effective, will result in an honorable discharge from the Navy.
After the Bar rested its case, the Respondent moved to strike the alleged violations of Rule 8.4(b) and (c). After argument and deliberation, the Board granted Respondent’s motion to strike the Bar’s allegation of a violation of Rule 8.4(c), but denied his motion as to the alleged violation of Rule 8.4(b).
Respondent called three witnesses, Jerome S. Blackman, M.D., a Board certified psychiatrist, Commander Robert J. Orr, III, JAGC, USN, and Lieutenant Commander Monte DeBoer, JAGC, USN. Dr. Blackman testified that he had seen the Respondent twice, once on July 19, 2001 and again on April 8, 2002. Based on his evaluation, Dr. Blackman opined that Respondent had no criminal intent, but rather because of certain life experiences it is likely that his conduct was motivated at some level by a desire to get caught and to be punished and in that sense it was not inadvertent, although it was not with the specific intent to commit a theft. Commander Orr and Lt. Commander DeBoer testified consistently to Respondent’s good character and reputation and that Respondent was an outstanding lawyer and Naval officer, whose work was exemplary in all respects and that the alleged conduct was completely out of character. Also presented and prepared to testify were Rear Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, USN, Captain Stephen Barker, USN, Commander Mike Palmer, JAGC, USNR, Anita Polen, Esq., and Chaplain Michael Znffoletto, Chaplain, USN; and the parties stipulated that were these persons called they would testify that they had worked with the Respondent, that he had done competent work and they would work with him again.
Based on all the evidence and after substantial deliberation, with substantial weight given to the conduct of the Respondent as evidenced in the videotape, the Board concluded that the Bar had proven by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent had committed a crime or a deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer in violation of Rule 8.4(b). The Respondent has no prior disciplinary record and after hearing argument from both the Bar and the Respondent, the Board concluded that an appropriate sanction under all the circumstances was a public reprimand.
Whereupon it is:
ORDERED pursuant to Part 6, Section IV, Paragraph 13(C)(6)(c)(iii) of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court that Paul Dennis Ziegler, Jr. receive, and hereby does receive, a public reprimand, which shall be published forthwith, as appropriate; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Disciplinary System send an attested and true copy of this Opinion and Order to Respondent, Paul Dennis Ziegler, Jr., by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested at his address of record with the Virginia State Bar, 3604 Elkton Drive, Chesapeake, VA 23221 and to Edward L. Davis, Assistant Bar Counsel, Virginia State Bar, 707 East Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, VA 23219-2800. Leslie Etheredge of Inge Snead & Associates, 4444 Arrowhead Road, Richmond, VA 23235, (804) 272-7054, was the reporter for the hearing and transcribed the proceedings.
The Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs pursuant to Part 6, § IV, ¶ 13(K)(10) of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court.
Randy I. Bellows, Second Vice Chair