News and Information
July 06, 2021

Clients’ Protection Fund Board Pays $182,280.00 on Twelve Petitions

The Virginia State Bar Clients’ Protection Fund Board authorized payments totaling $182,280.00 in reimbursement at its May 7, 2021, meeting.

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.

In the largest award of the meeting, the board approved a payment of $75,000 to the estate of a deceased former client of Cherie Ann Washburn of Lynchburg. The board found that, while acting as power of attorney for an elderly client with dementia, Washburn spent large amounts of the client’s money on items that benefitted Washburn, not the client, including the purchase of a home for Washburn, large charitable contributions to a charity with which Washburn was associated, and investments that listed Washburn as the sole beneficiary upon the client’s death. Although the board found that the loss suffered by the client, and thus her estate, far exceeded $75,000, the approved amount is the maximum that the board can pay to any one petitioner under Clients' Protection Fund Rule V.F.5. Washburn’s license was revoked by consent in March 2019 for misconduct related to this claim. She is currently facing criminal charges and civil lawsuits related to this matter.

The board awarded two payments of $41,875 and $28,000 to two former clients of Michael Anthony Cole of South Boston, who is now deceased. The board found that, in the case of the larger payment, Cole settled a motorcycle injury suit with an insurance company for a client but failed to pay out any of the settlement proceeds to the client.  In the second payment, Cole, as trustee, misappropriated funds from a trust. The defalcation was discovered when the beneficiary attempted to dissolve the trust and release the funds only to find that the trust had been depleted by payments that Cole made to himself. The board saw fit to award the petitioner $28,000, the amount that should have been in the account when it was dissolved.  Cole’s license to practice law in Virginia was revoked in February 2020 prior to his death in June 2020.

The Board awarded payment of $9,000 to a former client of Wayne Richard Hartke of Reston, now deceased, for legal fees the former client paid in a criminal matter. The Board found that Hartke did not perform sufficient legal services to earn the fee that he received, and that Hartke did not inform the client of his license suspension until the day of a court hearing. Hartke’s license was suspended for three years effective October 2016 and for an additional five years effective October 2019, prior to his death in April 2019.

The board awarded payment to two former clients of George Harold Edwards of Chesterfield. In the first case, resulting in a $8,500  reimbursement for unearned legal fees, the Board found that Edwards represented the client for eight years in litigation involving repairs to the client’s home, but that Edwards failed to move the case forward during that time, leading the court to dismiss the case for inactivity. In the second matter, the Board found that Edwards had performed substantial work on the client’s behalf, but that he had transitioned his VSB membership to disability status in July 2020 and did not complete the case. The board approved $2,000 for unearned legal fees to the client.

Three former clients of Larry Lynn Miller of Charlottesville, now deceased, were awarded $7,105, $5,500, and $1,550, by the board. In the largest of the three awards, the clients paid Miller $7,105 to make mortgage payments on their behalf through their bankruptcy plan.  None of the money reached the mortgage lender, exposing the clients to possible foreclosure. In the second case, Miller failed to do any work regarding a real estate matter and a divorce. The client was awarded the full $5,500 he paid for representation. In the last matter involving Miller, the client was paid $1,550 by the board for the retainer fee in a bankruptcy matter for which Miller performed no work. Miller’s license was suspended in July 2020 prior to his death in December 2020.

A petitioner was awarded $2,500, representing partial fees paid to Michael Alan Bishop of Meadowview, now deceased, for a divorce proceeding in which the Board found Bishop had performed some services, but had not completed the legal services for which he was hired.  

The board awarded a $1,250 payment for unearned attorney’s fees in an immigration matter. The board found that the attorney, Ellis Charles Baggs of Richmond, performed more than insignificant legal services, but not all the services, that the $2,500 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.

May 7, 2021 

Docket Number

Lawyer’s Name

City of Record

Amount Paid Type of Case
Cherie Anne Washburn Lynchburg, VA $75,000.00 Estate Planning/Administration
20-555-003259 Michael Anthony Cole (deceased) South Boston, VA $28,000.00 Embezzlement/Trusts
20-555-003265 Wayne Richard Hartke (deceased) Reston, VA $9,000.00 Unearned Fees/Criminal Law
20-555-003266 George Harold Edwards Chesterfield, VA $2,000.00 Unearned Fees/Civil Law-State
20-555-003278 Michael Anthony Cole (deceased) South Boston, VA $41,875.00 Embezzlement/Personal Injury/Property Damage
20-555-003286 George Harold Edwards Chesterfield, VA $8,500.00 Unearned Fees/Public Interest
21-555-003289 Michael Alan Bishop (deceased) Meadowview, VA $2,500.00 Unearned Fees/ Family Law
21-555-003292 Larry Lynn Miller (deceased) Charlottesville, VA $5,500.00 Unearned Fees/Family Law and Real Estate
21-555-003294 Ellis Charles Baggs Richmond, VA $1,250.00 Unearned Fees/Immigration
21-555-003299 Larry Lynn Miller (deceased) Charlottesville, VA $1,550.00 Unearned Fees/Bankruptcy
21-555-003302 Larry Lynn Miller (deceased) Charlottesville, VA $7,105.00 Unearned Fees/Bankruptcy

The Clients’ Protection Fund was created by the Supreme Court of Virginia in 1976 to compensate 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 $5. 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: Jul 06, 2021