News and Information
February 22, 2011

VSB Disciplinary Board to Hear Morrissey Reinstatement Petition on April 22, 2011


Pursuant to Part 6, Section IV, Paragraph 13-25 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Joseph Dee Morrissey petitioned the Supreme Court on July 2, 2010, for reinstatement of his license to practice law. The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board will hear the petition on April 22, 2011, at 9 a.m. at the Workers’ Compensation Commission, 1000 DMV Drive, Courtroom A, Richmond. After hearing evidence and oral argument, the Disciplinary Board will make factual findings and recommend to the Supreme Court whether the petition should be granted or denied.

The Disciplinary Board seeks information about Mr. Morrissey’s fitness to practice law. Written comments or requests to testify at the hearing may be submitted to Barbara S. Lanier, Clerk of the Disciplinary System, 707 East Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, Virginia 23219, or to clerk@vsb.org no later than April 13, 2011. Comments will become part of the public record.

The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board revoked Mr. Morrissey’s license on April 25, 2003, for failing to comply with the obligations imposed by Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13.K.(1) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia to give timely notice of the suspension of his law license to his clients, opposing counsel, and courts before which matters were pending; to make appropriate arrangements in compliance with the wishes of his clients; and to furnish proof thereof to the Virginia State Bar. This action derived from the suspension imposed upon him in a proceeding styled Virginia State Bar, ex rel, Third District Committee, Section II, Joseph D. Morrissey, Chancery No. HK, 1655 (Richmond Cir. Ct. Feb. 18, 2000).

At the time of the hearing that resulted in the revocation of his law license, Mr. Morrissey’s prior disciplinary record (received into evidence by the Disciplinary Board at the April 25, 2003 revocation hearing) included three dismissals with terms, one private reprimand, one public reprimand, a six-month suspension, a three-year suspension, and a show-cause summary suspension of his law license based on his disbarment by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (the show cause matter was dismissed subject to an agreement described below).

Specifically, Mr. Morrissey’s record includes:

  • a dismissal with terms in April 1990 that required him to attend the Virginia State Bar Professionalism Course and certify that he would establish and maintain a trust account if he returned to private practice;

  • a dismissal with terms in September 1990 that required him to attend two hours of legal ethics training after findings that he represented a criminal defendant in the same matter for which he previously prosecuted him while serving as commonwealth’s attorney;

  • a dismissal with terms in June 1993 that required him to write a letter of apology to the presiding judge in a case in which he, while serving as commonwealth’s attorney, amended a felony warrant of arrest for drunken driving down to misdemeanor reckless driving without leave of court;

  • a private reprimand in December 1990 for failing to perfect two criminal appeals and for failing to keep the client reasonably informed about them;

  • a public reprimand in March 1992 for his involvement, while serving as commonwealth’s attorney, in a fist fight with opposing counsel in a criminal trial conducted in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond (See Morrissey v. Virginia State Bar, 260 Va. 472, 488, 538 S.E.2d 677, 680 Va. 2000);

  • a six-month suspension in December 1993 for misconduct that constituted “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation” in arranging a plea bargain in a rape case in which the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and the defendant’s father paid $25,000 to the victim and $25,000 to charities designated by Mr. Morrissey while Mr. Morrissey was serving as commonwealth’s attorney, and for concealing this portion of the agreement from the victim, who had indicated to Mr. Morrissey that she wanted more than $25,000 as an “accord and satisfaction” (See Morrissey v. Virginia State Bar, 248 Va. 334, 338, 448 S.E.2nd 615, 617 Va. 1994);

  • a three-year suspension in December 1999 deriving from his conviction on two counts of contempt for violating Local Rule 57 (C) of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (making public statements about the identity, testimony or credibility of prospective witnesses), for which he was sentenced to ninety days’ imprisonment followed by three years of probation, and a third citation of contempt for his angry outburst directed at the presiding judge during a sentencing hearing in the Chesterfield County Circuit Court (See Morrissey v. Virginia State Bar, 260 Va. at 477, 538 S.E.2d at 679); and

  • a show-cause summary suspension of his law license in October 2002 deriving from his disbarment from practice in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, effective December 21, 2001, in which the court addressed the matters set forth above and Mr. Morrissey’s subsequent violations of the conditions of probation (attempting to circumvent the conditions of probation and lying to probation officer), resulting in an additional ninety-day jail sentence and the revocation of his probation. See In re: Joseph D. Morrissey, 305 F.3d 211 (4th Cir. 2002). In return for Mr. Morrissey’s withdrawal of the appeal of the April 2003 revocation of his law license, the Virginia State Bar agreed to dismiss the show cause matter.

In his July 2, 2010, petition, Mr. Morrissey states that his license to practice law has been suspended or revoked for ten years; that he earned a master of laws degree, graduating with honors, from Trinity College, Dublin, in 2003; that he was scheduled to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam on August 6, 2010, and was nearing completion of sixty hours of continuing legal education credits, at least ten of which were in ethics or professionalism; that he has kept abreast of the law as a teacher, student, and state legislator; that he taught law school at the Dublin Institute of Technology for two years (2001-2003); that he was a lecturer of Law at Portobello College, Ireland (2001-2002); that in Australia he taught law school at the University of Adelaide and the University of Western Sydney; and that he serves as a delegate in the Virginia General Assembly. He attached letters from law school officials describing his student record and teaching and advocacy abilities.

Copies of Mr. Morrissey’s disciplinary orders are available from the clerk at clerk@vsb.org or (804) 775-0539.

Updated: Feb 24, 2011