On Application for Admission to the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Before Steadman and King, Associate Judges, and Belson, Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: King
Walter Blair, having passed the bar examination in 1987, is an applicant for admission to the Bar. Because adverse information regarding his fitness to practice law was presented to the Committee on Admissions ("the Committee"), it held hearings to determine whether Blair should be admitted to the Bar. At the Conclusion of those hearings, the Committee was evenly divided on whether to recommend admission. We have reviewed the record, and we conclude that a remand is necessary since the recommendations provided by the Committee are insufficient to permit us to determine whether Blair has met his burden of showing that he possesses the requisite moral character and fitness to practice law in the District of Columbia as required by D.C. App. R. 46 (e).
Blair graduated from law school in 1979 and was admitted to the Bar in West Virginia in 1980. He did not, however, begin the actual practice of law in that state until late spring of 1981. In the interim, Blair worked with attorneys in Maryland and the District of Columbia and appeared in the courts of those jurisdictions pro hac vice. Blair's conduct in one of the cases in Maryland led to a suspension from the practice of law by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in 1985. He has never been reinstated to that state's Bar, nor has he ever been admitted as a member of the Bar in any other jurisdiction.
Beginning in April, 1985, after his suspension, Blair began working with W. Edward Thompson, an attorney in the District of Columbia and principal in a succession of law firms located in the District. Cases that Blair had before his suspension were transferred to Thompson as formal counsel. In September, 1987, the last Thompson firm with which Blair worked, Thompson, Lee & Harvey, dissolved. Blair then went to work for Lee & Harvey.
In 1987, Blair passed the Bar examination for the District of Columbia. In his application for admission to the Bar here, he disclosed his suspension from the practice of law in West Virginia and the fact that he has never been reinstated. In addition, W. Edward Thompson alleged that Blair had contributed to the break-up of Thompson's firm by encouraging former members of the firm to "steal" Thompson's clients.
A hearing was held in May, 1988, to investigate the circumstances of the West Virginia suspension and Thompson's allegations to determine the effect, if any, either would have upon Blair's application to practice law in the District of Columbia. After the 1988 hearing, the Committee unanimously concluded that neither Blair's suspension in West Virginia, nor the allegations concerning the break-up of the Thompson law firm constituted a sufficient basis for denying him admission. However, at the 1988 hearing, in addition to presenting evidence regarding the break-up of the his law firm, Thompson also testified that Blair had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in the District of Columbia after he was suspended in West Virginia. As a result, subsequent hearings were held in February and March of 1990 to investigate the new allegation. After the Conclusion of the 1990 hearings, the Committee was divided evenly on whether to recommend Blair's admission to the District of Columbia Bar.
The Committee began by reviewing Blair's conduct as a practicing attorney. Although Blair was admitted in West Virginia only, he worked with attorneys in Maryland and the District of Columbia and appeared pro hac vice in a number of cases. *fn1 In 1981, while handling one of his Maryland cases, Blair engaged in conduct which was later determined to be witness tampering. The witness tampering incident was the cause of Blair's suspension by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in 1985. *fn2
Blair's conduct as an attorney in matters unrelated to the witness tampering incident also raised concerns. For example, Blair's conduct during the course of his representation of a defendant in a criminal proceeding led to a separate charge of obstruction of Justice against him. Blair was convicted by a jury after one trial, but ...