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January 17, 1992


On Report and Recommendation the Board on Professional Responsibility.

Before Terry and King, Associate Judges, and Mack, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

PER CURIAM: This matter comes to us from the Board on professional Responsibility (the Board) as a reciprocal discipline case that arose because the Supreme Court of Florida disciplined respondent for charging clearly excessive attorney's fees. The Florida court suspended respondent for ninety-one days, required proof of fitness for reinstatement, imposed a two-year probation period after reinstatement, and required the payment of $15,470 in restitution and $5,144.81 in costs for the disciplinary process. *fn1 The Board in its report concluded that a de novo hearing was not required and that reciprocal discipline was warranted. However, it recommended a different sanction, a suspension of ninety-one days followed by automatic reinstatement. We agree with the Board's Conclusions. Accordingly, we adopt the Board's recommendation and incorporate the Board's report as an appendix to this opinion.

The standards for imposition of reciprocal discipline are set forth in D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11(c) which provides:

(c) Standards for reciprocal discipline. Reciprocal discipline shall be imposed unless the attorney demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that:

(1) The procedure elsewhere was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process; or

(2) There was such infirmity of proof establishing the misconduct as to give rise to the clear conviction that the Court could not, consistently with its duty, accept as final the Conclusion on that subject; or

(3) The imposition of the same discipline by the Court would result in grave inJustice; or

(4) The misconduct established warrants substantially different discipline in the District of Columbia; or

(5) The misconduct elsewhere does not constitute misconduct in the District of Columbia.

Unless there is a finding by the Board under (1), (2), or (5) above that is accepted by the Court, a final determination by a disciplining court outside the District of Columbia or by another court in the District of Columbia that an attorney has been guilty of professional misconduct shall conclusively establish the misconduct for the purpose of a reciprocal disciplinary proceeding in this Court.

Although respondent does not rely specifically on any of the five enumerated exceptions of R. XI, § 11(c), he nevertheless claims the Florida judgment is deficient and that he is therefore entitled to a de novo hearing before the Board before discipline can be imposed by this court. Specifically, respondent claims: (1) he was denied due process and equal protection because the selection criteria of the Florida grievance committee, which found probable cause, resulted in no representation of members of respondent's race; (2) Florida Bar Counsel's presence during the deliberation of the grievance committee violated due process; (3) the probate court in Florida, which found respondent had charged excessive attorney's fees, lacked subject matter or personal jurisdiction; (4) the Florida Supreme Court denied due process when it imposed a sanction more severe than recommended by the referee without giving respondent an opportunity to be heard on that point; (5) the Florida Bar regulation on fees for legal services violates federal antitrust laws; (6) the Florida Bar regulation governing fees for legal services is void for vagueness; and, (7) the evidence in the Florida proceeding was defective in several respects and should not be used as a basis for reciprocal discipline. *fn2 These points were all raised and rejected by the Florida Supreme Court either in the initial appeal or in one of the orders responding to the two petitions for rehearing. The Florida Bar v. Richardson, supra note 1, 574 So.2d at 62. *fn3 We conclude that, giving due deference to decision of another jurisdiction in a reciprocal discipline case, the principles of collateral estoppel obligate us to accept the holding of that court. See, e.g., In re Loigman, 582 A.2d 1202, 1203 (D.C. 1990); In re Velasquez, 507 A.2d 145, 147 (D.C.1986); Ali Baba Company v. Wilco, Incorporated, 482 A.2d 418, 421-22 (D.C. 1984).

In addition, we agree with the Board's recommendation that a lesser sanction should be imposed for the reasons set forth in its report. Bar Counsel supports that recommendation and respondent has noted that he takes no exception to it. *fn4 The only issue remaining then is to determine the time period for the ninety-one day suspension.

On June 24, 1991, this court entered an order temporarily suspending respondent from the practice of law pursuant to Rule XI, § 11(d). On July 31, 1991, the Board issued its report recommending a suspension of ninety-one days commencing on June 24, 1991, the effective date of the temporary suspension ordered previously. On September 18, 1991, respondent filed a petition for dissolution of the temporary order on the grounds that the ninety-one day suspension term would expire on September 23, 1991. We granted the petition on December 18, 1991. Bar Counsel, in its opposition to respondent's September 18, 1991, petition, informed this court that respondent failed to satisfy the notice requirements of District of Columbia Bar Rule XI, § 14 until September 18, 1991. Therefore, reasoned Bar Counsel, the suspension should commence on that date and not expire until December 18, 1991. We are satisfied that respondent has served the suspension recommended by the Board and approved by us. No further period of suspension is required.

It is therefore ORDERED that respondent shall be, and hereby is, suspended from the practice of law in the District of Columbia for ninety-one days, commencing June 24, 1991.



In the Matter of: T. CARLTON RICHARDSON, ...

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