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In re Morrissey

October 3, 1994

IN RE: MICHAEL J. MORRISSEY, RESPONDENT, A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS


On Report and Recommendation of the Board of Professional Responsibility

Before Schwelb and Farrell, Associate Judges, and Reilly, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

PER CURIAM: In this reciprocal discipline proceeding, the Board on Professional Responsibility has recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law in the District of Columbia for eighteen months and required to prove fitness as a condition of reinstatement. Bar Counsel concurs in the recommendation. We accept the Board's recommendation for the reasons set forth in its report and recommendation, appended hereto. In particular, we agree with the Board that, although no reason exists why we should not impose reciprocal discipline, see D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (c), imposition of the sanction levied by the Supreme Court of Virginia -- the equivalent of disbarrment under our Rule XI -- would be inconsistent with our previous sanctions for misconduct of similar gravity. See, e.g., In re Lenoir, 585 A.2d 771 (D.C. 1991); In re Thornton, 421 A.2d 1 (D.C. 1980). *fn1 But we agree further with the Board that a requirement of proof of fitness is necessary in this case, because -- in the Board's words -- "respondent's conduct in Virginia and his conduct before its Board raise serious questions about his legal capabilities, and his prolonged refusal to recognize his misconduct gives us good reason to question his understanding of his professional ethical responsibilities."

Accordingly, Michael J. Morrissey is hereby suspended from the practice of law in the District of Columbia for a period of eighteen months from the date of this opinion, and reinstatement shall be conditioned upon proof that he is fit to practice law. D.C. Bar R. XI, §§ 3 (a)(2), 16. *fn2

So ordered.

ATTACHMENT

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

IN THE MATTER OF: MICHAEL MORRISSEY, RESPONDENT.

BAR DOCKET NO. 131-91

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

On May 28, 1991, the Court of Appeals temporarily suspended Respondent based on discipline imposed in Virginia, and referred this matter to the Board for a recommendation as to whether reciprocal discipline should be imposed. For the reasons presented below, we recommend that reciprocal discipline be imposed, but that the sanction be different than that ordered in Virginia.

I. The Virginia Disciplinary Proceedings

In January, 1991, Respondent was disciplined in Virginia for misconduct in two separate matters. In one, he was suspended for six months for violations of DR 1-102(A)(3) (deliberately wrongful conduct adversely reflecting on fitness to practice law), and DR 1-102(A)(4) (dishonesty). Respondent had been retained by a client in connection with criminal proceedings in Maryland and Ohio. The client paid Respondent a $3,300 advance. Respondent retained an Ohio attorney to represent the client in that state, writing a check to him for $500. The check was dishonored by Respondent's bank for insufficient funds, and Respondent thereafter refused to provide funds to make the check good.

The second proceeding, for which Respondent's Virginia license to practice law was revoked, arose from a lawsuit brought by a Richmond, Virginia law firm against Respondent to collect $2,000 for legal services. A judgment for that amount was awarded the law firm in a Virginia District Court, and Respondent appealed to the Circuit Court.

Respondent's unprofessional, perhaps even bizarre, conduct before the Circuit Court gave rise to the disciplinary proceedings against him. Morrissey first argued that the Virginia Circuit Court had no jurisdiction over him because of improper service of process, despite his failure to raise this defense in the court below. Later, on the day when a trial de novo was to begin, Respondent sought a continuance, asserting that his retained counsel could not be present. The presiding Judge denied the request, finding that Respondent had not retained counsel. The trial proceeded and a jury verdict for $2,000 was returned.

At Respondent's request, entry of judgment was deferred to allow the parties to reach a settlement. When settlement negotiations apparently failed, Respondent sought a hearing date for a motion for a mistrial (without informing the other party) and then, only minutes before the time of hearing on that motion, served and filed unsigned motions for a mistrial, for dismissal, and to strike a certain pleading and for sanctions. The motion to dismiss offered no reasons therefor; the motion for mistrial asserted prejudice from Respondent's being required to proceed to trial without counsel; the motion to strike stated no reasons but, at the hearing, Respondent complained of a reference to settlement Discussions in a pending motion of the plaintiff to enter judgment on the $2,000 verdict.

The Judge denied all of the motions, entered judgment on the verdict, and awarded sanctions against Respondent, finding his motions to be frivolous and to have no purpose other than delay. Morrissey noted an appeal of the judgment, and then failed to order a complete copy of the transcript, as required by Virginia rules.

On these facts, the Virginia Disciplinary Board found Respondent to have violated the following ...


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