News and Information
March 24, 2021

Clients’ Protection Fund Board Pays $134,080.85 on Seven Petitions

The Virginia State Bar Clients’ Protection Fund Board authorized payments totaling $134,080.85 in reimbursement at its January 29, 2021 meeting.

In the largest award of the meeting, the board approved three separate payments, of $50,000, $28,047.50, and $29,060.85, to the new trustee of multiple trusts based on evidence of Phillip R. Farthing’s breach of fiduciary duty and excessive fees that Farthing charged when he was trustee for the trusts over the course of several years. The board considered each of the trusts a distinct petitioner under the rules capping the amount a single petitioner can receive. The losses occurred when the per-petitioner cap was $50,000. Farthings’ license was revoked in January 2020 by consent for misconduct related to this claim.

The board approved the payment of $12,500 to a petitioner regarding Robert Lyman I. Shearer, Jr. of Springfield for failing to perform all the work required to finalize a divorce and property settlement case.  The board found that Shearer performed more than insignificant legal services, but not all the work for which he received $25,000, prompting the board to reimburse half of what the petitioner requested. Shearer’s license was suspended for three years beginning June 22, 2018.

A married couple received $5,660.50 as reimbursement for fees they paid John B. Russell Jr. and/or companies with which Russell was affiliated for legal representation in a mortgage modification case, finding that neither Russell nor the affiliated companies performed sufficient legal services to earn the fee the petitioners paid.

The board approved a $5,000 payment as reimbursement for unearned attorney’s fees in an immigration matter. The board found that the attorney, Charles Ellis Baggs, performed more than insignificant legal services, but not all the services, that the $10,000 fee should have covered, prompting the board to reimburse half of what the petitioner requested. Baggs’ license was revoked by consent on March 17, 2020 for neglect of multiple cases in his immigration practice.

Two former clients of Randall Sousa of Fairfax were awarded $2,500 and $312, respectively, by the board. In the larger of the two reimbursements, the client paid Sousa $5,300 to handle her divorce. $300 was for the initial consultation, and the remaining fee would be earned as work was performed. The board found that Sousa did enough work on the case to justify reimbursing one-half of the requested amount.  In the second case, Sousa failed to do any work to protect the client’s interest after the client hired Sousa for a civil matter that the client had filed pro se.  A three-year suspension was issued on January 27, 2020 for Sousa. He appealed the suspension, but the appeal was subsequently dismissed by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

A petitioner recovered $1,000, representing fees paid to Jahangir Ghobadi of Sterling for a retainer to file an application for a license to authorize the client to transfer money to a U.S. bank account from another country.  Ghoabadi failed to do the work to obtain the license. Ghobadi’s license was revoked in June 2019 for a similar misconduct case.

A chart of the amounts paid as a result of this meeting follows. The board delays the release of the final chart, as the awards given to petitioners are subject to a 30-day appeal period.

January 29, 2021 

Docket Number

Lawyer’s Name

City of Record

Amount Paid Type of Case
20-555-003268

Philip R. Farthing

Norfolk, VA

$50,000.00

$28,047.50

$29,060.85

Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Unearned fees/ Estate Planning Administration and Trusts

20-555-003295

Randall Sousa

Fairfax, VA

$312.00

Unearned fees/Civil Law

20-555-003287

Randall Sousa

Fairfax, VA

$2,500.00

Unearned fees/Family Law

20-555-003288

Ellis Charles Baggs

Richmond VA

$5,000.00 Unearned fees/Immigration
20-555-003256 Jahangir Ghobadi Sterling, VA $1,000.00

Unearned fees/Banking

20-555-003252 John B. Russell, Jr. Bon Air, VA $5,660.50 Unearned fees/Banking
20-555-003271 Robert Lyman I. Shearer, Jr. Springfield, VA $12,500.00 Unearned fees/Family Law

The Clients’ Protection Fund was created by the Supreme Court of Virginia in 1976 to reimburse persons who suffer a quantifiable financial loss because of dishonest conduct by a Virginia lawyer whose law license has been suspended or revoked for disciplinary reasons, or who has died and did not properly maintain client funds. The fund is not taxpayer-funded but is supported by Virginia lawyers who pay an annual fee of up to $10. Payments from the Clients’ Protection Fund are discretionary and are not a matter of right.

If you have any questions, you may contact Vivian R. Byrd, administrator to Clients’ Protection Fund by email at (804) 775-0572.

Updated: Mar 29, 2021