Publications

Virginia Lawyer Register - March 2012

Contents

In this issue:
Disciplinary Proceedings

Disciplinary Summaries

Notices to Members

Proposals for Public Comment

View March Virginia Lawyer Register (PDF of mailed version with hyperlinks to additional materials)

Disciplinary Proceedings

Respondent’s Name Address of Record Action Effective Date
Circuit Court
Stephen Thomas Perkins Virginia Beach, VA Admonition November 28, 2012
Troy Savenko Richmond, VA Admonition November 28, 2012
Bambi F. Walters Williamsburg, VA Suspension w/Terms – 2 years January 18, 2012
 
Disciplinary Board
Christopher Jason Agresto Leesburg, VA Suspension – 5 years November 18, 2011
    Revocation December 5, 2011
Michael J. Biddinger Spotsylvania, VA Revocation November 18, 2011
John Michael Coppola Leesburg, VA Suspension — 2 years & 6 months December 5, 2011
Brett Nathan Dorny Arvade, CO Revocation October 28, 2011
Francis Allen Minor Springfield, VA Suspension w/Terms – 1 year December 9, 2011
Mary Ellen Slugg Centreville, VA Suspension – 12 months January 1, 2012
 
District Committees
Katherine Martell Fairfax, VA Public Reprimand w/Terms December 12, 2011
Henry Allen Thompson Waverly, VA Public Admonition January 23, 2012
Joseph Louis Tantoh Tibui San Diego, CA Public Reprimand December 13, 2011
 
Suspension – Failure to Pay Disciplinary Costs Effective Date Lifted
Eugene Brian Harris Houston, TX December 16, 2011
Salvage DeLacy Stith Chesapeake, VA January 12, 2012
 

 

Features

The following are summaries of disciplinary actions for violations of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) (Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court Part 6, ¶ II, eff. Jan. 1, 2000) or another of the Supreme Court Rules.

Copies of disciplinary orders are available at the Web link provided with each summary or by contacting the Virginia State Bar Clerk’s Office at (804) 775-0539 or clerk@vsb.org">clerk@vsb.org. VSB docket numbers are provided.

Circuit Courts

Stephen Thomas Perkins
Virginia Beach, Virginia
09-033-076160
On November 28, 2011, a three-judge panel of the Circuit Court for the city of Virginia Beach issued an admonition to Stephen Thomas Perkins for violating the professional rule that governs candor toward the tribunal. This was an agreed disposition of a misconduct charge. RPC 3.3(c)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/perkins-121511.pdf

Troy Savenko
Richmond, Virginia
09-033-076159
On November 28, 2011, a three-judge panel of the Circuit Court for the city of Virginia Beach issued an admonition to Troy Savenko for violating the professional rule that governs candor toward the tribunal. This was an agreed disposition of a misconduct charge. RPC 3.3(c)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/savenko-121511.pdf

Bambi F. Walters
Williamsburg, Virginia
10-060-082176
Effective January 18, 2012, a three-judge panel of the Circuit Court for the City of Williamsburg suspended Bambi F. Walters’s privilege to practice law in Virginia for two years with terms.  Ms. Walters is not licensed in Virginia but was registered as an attorney with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.The court found that she violated Virginia professional rules that govern safekeeping property, unauthorized practice of law, multijurisdictional practice of law, communication concerning a lawyer’s services, and firm names and letterheads.  This was an agreed disposition of misconduct charges. RPC 1.15(a)(1)(2) (c)(3) (e)(1)(i-v) (e)(2)(i-iii) (f)(2)(3)(4)(i)(ii) (5)(i-iii) (6); 5.5(c)(d)(2)(i-ii)(3)(i-iii); 7.1(a)(i); 7.5(a)(b)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/walters-011812.pdf

Disciplinary Board

Christopher Jason Agresto
Leesburg, Virginia
10-070-081587, 11-070-085415, 12-000-089928
On November 18, 2011, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board suspended Christopher Jason Agresto’s license to practice law for five years for violating professional rules that govern competence, diligence, communication, declining or terminating representation, and bar admission and disciplinary matters. In another matter, the board also suspended Mr. Agresto’s license pending a show cause hearing based on his November 4, 2011, guilty plea for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The board ordered him to appear on December 9, 2011, to show cause why his license should not be further suspended or revoked. RPC 1.1, 1.3(a); 1.4(a)(c); 1.16(c)(d); 8.1(c)

Christopher Jason Agresto
Leesburg, Virginia
12-000-089928
On December 5, 2011, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board revoked Christopher Jason Agresto’s license to practice law. In consenting to the revocation, Mr. Agresto admitted that he was convicted of a federal crime involving conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His license had been summarily suspended on November 18, 2011. He pled guilty in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia which accepted his plea. Part 6, § IV, ¶ 13–28.
http://www.vsb.org/docs/Agresto-121311.pdf

Michael J. Biddinger
Spotsylvania, Virginia
10-060-083612
On November 18, 2011, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board revoked Michael J. Biddinger’s license to practice law for violating professional rules that govern declining or terminating representation and bar admission and disciplinary matters. His license had been suspended since September 27, 2010. RPC 1.16(e); 8.1(d)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/Biddinger-121311.pdf

John Michael Coppola
Leesburg, Virginia
11-000-087965
On December 5, 2011, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board suspended John Michael Coppola’s license to practice law for two years and six months for violating rules that govern responsibilities regarding nonlawyer assistants, violating or attempting to violate the rules of professional conduct, committing a criminal or deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law, and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation which reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law. His license had been summarily suspended on July 29, 2011, based on his April 29, 2011, disbarment by the Maryland Court of Appeals. This was an agreed disposition of misconduct charges. RPC 5.3(b)(c)(1)(2); 8.4 (a)(b)(c)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/coppola-121211.pdf

Brett Nathan Dorny
Arvada, Colorado
12-000-089368
On October 28, 2011, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board revoked Brett Nathan Dorny’s license to practice law, based on his August 4, 2011, disbarment in Massachusetts.  His Virginia license was summarily suspended on September 29, 2011. Part 6, § IV, ¶ 13–24.
http://www.vsb.org/docs/Dorny-110711.pdf

Francis Allen Minor
Springfield, Virginia
09-053-078432, 10-053-081956
Effective December 9, 2011, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board suspended Francis Allen Minor’s license to practice law for one year with terms for violating professional rules that govern communication, safekeeping property, unauthorized practice of law, bar admission and disciplinary matters, and misconduct. This was an agreed disposition of misconduct charges. RPC 1.4(a); 1.15(a)(1)(2); 5.5(a)(1); 8.1(a)(c); 8.4(a)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/Minor-120511.pdf

Mary Ellen Slugg
Centreville, Virginia
10-052-082218, 10-052-082297, 10-052-082298, 10-052-083016
On December 28, 2011, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board imposed four concurrent twelve-month suspensions of Mary Ellen Slugg’s license to practice law for violating professional rules that govern competence, diligence, and safekeeping property. The suspensions were effective January 1, 2012. This was an agreed disposition of misconduct charges. RPC 1.1; 1.3(a); 1.15(d)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/slugg-010312.pdf

District Committees

Katherine Martell
Fairfax, Virginia
11-041-086630, 11-041-086807
On December 12, 2011, a Virginia State Bar Fourth District – Section I Subcommittee issued a public reprimand with terms to Katherine Martell for violating professional rules that govern diligence, communication, safekeeping property, declining or terminating representation, and responsibilities regarding nonlawyer assistants. This was an agreed disposition of misconduct charges. RPC 1.3(a)(b); 1.4(a); 1.15(c)(4); 1.16(d); 5.3(a)(b)(c)(1)(2)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/Martell-121211.pdf

Henry Allen Thompson
Waverly, Virginia
10-031-084194, 11-031-086623
On January 23, 2012, a Virginia State Bar Third District-Section I Subcommittee issued a public admonition to Henry Allen Thompson for violating professional rules that govern competence and diligence. This was an agreed disposition of misconduct charges. RPC 1.1; 1.3(a)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/thompson-012312.pdf

Joseph Louis Tantoh Tibui
San Diego, California
09-041-076480, 10-041-083463, 11-041-086191
On December 13, 2011, a Virginia State Bar Fourth District-Section I Subcommittee issued a public reprimand to Joseph Louis Tantoh Tibui for violating professional rules that govern communication and declining or terminating representation. This was an agreed disposition of misconduct charges. RPC 1.4(a); 1.16(c)(d)
http://www.vsb.org/docs/tibui-121311.pdf

Notices to Members

 

License Forfeitures

The names of Virginia State Bar members who have forfeited their licenses to practice law for failure to pay annual membership fees are posted at:
http://www.vsb.org/site/members/license-forfeitures/. Forfeiture is governed by §54.1-3914, Code of Virginia. The list is current as of January 26, 2012.

Final Ethics Opinion

Legal Ethics Opinion 1861

The VSB’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics issued the following LEO as final on February 21, 2012:
Legal Ethics Opinion 1861
May a Lawyer Serving As a Bankruptcy Trustee Communicate With the Debtor Without Consent By the Debtor’s Lawyer?
Details can be found at http://www.vacle.org/opinions/1861.htm

Proposals for Public Comment

The following proposal is published for public comment, which should be submitted in writing to Karen A. Gould, Executive Director, Virginia State Bar, 707 E. Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, VA 23219, no later than the end of the business day on the day of the deadline.
Deadline for comment: April 10, 2012

Proposed Policy Revision to the Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee (Judicial Nominations Committee)

Proposed revisions to the Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee policy include the name, which was the Judicial Nominations Committee, the committee membership, and the investigation and evaluation process.
Details: http://www.vsb.org/site/news/item/comments-sought-JCEC-policy

The following proposal is published for public comment, which should be submitted in writing to Karen A. Gould, Executive Director, Virginia State Bar, 707 E. Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, VA 23219, no later than the end of the business day on the day of the deadline.
Deadline for comment: April 20, 2012

Proposed Amendment to Rule 1.15 Safekeeping Property

On January 19, 2012, the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics approved a proposed amendment to Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct to clarify that all funds held by a lawyer on behalf of others must be held in a trust account, while other property should be held in a safe deposit box or other place of safekeeping.  As written, the rule currently could be read to permit a lawyer to keep client funds in a safe deposit box rather than in a trust account.  The amendment also replaces the word “monies” in comment [1] with the word “funds,” in order to make comment [1] consistent with the rule and other comments.
Details:
http://www.vsb.org/pro-guidelines/index.php/rule_changes/

Rule 1.15
Safekeeping Property

(a) Depositing Funds.
   (1) All funds received or held by a lawyer or law firm on behalf of a client or a third party, or held by a lawyer as a fiduciary, other than reimbursement of advances for costs and expenses shall be deposited in one or more identifiable trust accounts; all other property held on behalf of a client should be placed in a safe deposit box or other place of safekeeping as soon as practicable.

Comment
[1] A lawyer should hold property of others with the care required of a professional fiduciary.  Securities should be kept in a safe deposit box, except when some other form of safekeeping is warranted by special circumstances.  For purposes of this Rule, the term “fiduciary” includes personal representative, trustee, receiver, guardian, committee, custodian, and attorney-in-fact.  All property that is the property of clients or third persons should be kept separate from the lawyer’s business and personal property and, if funds, in one or more trust accounts.  Separate trust accounts may be warranted when administering estate funds or acting in similar fiduciary capacities.