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IN RE JONES-TERRELL

May 28, 1998

IN RE BETTY JONES-TERRELL, RESPONDENT. A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS.


Before Schwelb and Reid, Associate Judges, and Mack, Senior Judge. [712 A2d Page 497]

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reid, Associate Judge:

The Board on Professional Responsibility ("the Board") has recommended that respondent Betty Jones-Terrell be suspended from the practice of law for sixty days, without a fitness requirement, based on her violation of six of the Rules of Professional Conduct:

(1) Rule 4.2(a) pertaining to communication with a person known to be represented by an attorney, without the prior consent of that attorney;

(2) Rule 1.8(a) concerning conflict of interest and engaging in prohibited business transactions with a client without full disclosure or fair and reasonable terms;

(3) Rule 7.1(b)(3) prohibiting personal contact with an incapacitated person regarding potential employment as that person's lawyer;

(4) Rule 1.7(b) involving conflict of interest in the representation of persons having adverse interests;

(5) Rule 8.4(c) pertaining to dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; and

(6) Rule 8.4(d) regarding conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice.

Respondent filed an exception only to the sanction imposed. We adopt the recommendation of the Board.

FACTUAL SUMMARY

On October 16, 1996, Hearing Committee Ten issued a report containing proposed factual findings regarding this matter, which were adopted by the Board. We commence with a summary of those factual findings.

Respondent graduated from law school in 1983, was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1986, and to the District of Columbia Bar in 1988. *fn1 After her graduation from law school, she moved to an apartment located at 1715 Swann Street, N.W. She met Ruth and Isaac Long, who lived at 1749 Swann Street, and subsequently became their counsel. The Longs regarded respondent as their godchild. The Longs introduced respondent to Fred and Naomi Wallace, an elderly couple who also lived in the Swann Street neighborhood. At the time of the introduction, the Longs and the Wallaces had been friends and neighbors for almost twenty years.

Mr. Wallace was blind and seldom ventured out of the house. Mrs. Wallace was bedridden and incontinent. By 1986, the condition of Mrs. Wallace became worse. Around September of 1986, the Family and Child Services of Washington, D.C. ("FACS") began to provide assistance to the Wallaces. A social worker, Gwen Noonan-Jones, was assigned to the case. In December 1986 and again in July 1987, both Ms. Noonan-Jones and Mrs. Long contemplated the need for a conservator for the Wallaces. On July 20, 1987, Richard Lyon, Esq., who had known Mr. Wallace for years and served as the Wallaces' attorney, the Wallaces and Ms. Noonan-Jones met to plan for the continued care of the Wallaces. Instead of seeking the appointment of a conservator, Ms. Noonan-Jones and Mr. Lyon devised a plan in which Ms. Noonan-Jones would continue to make out checks for the Wallaces' signatures so that their bills could be paid, and Mr. Lyon would assume the task of reviewing the Wallaces' monthly bank statements to determine that the expenditures were proper.

On August 6, 1987, Mr. Lyon was given a power of attorney by Mrs. Wallace. He drafted reciprocal wills for the Wallaces, in which they named the Longs as the beneficiaries of the final survivor. The Wallaces executed reciprocal wills on September 10, 1987. On that same date, respondent, acting as the attorney for the Longs, drafted an agreement specifying that: "As sole beneficiaries of Fred and Naomi Wallace . . . [the Longs would] provide primary care and assistance for the remainder of the Wallace's [sic] respective lives." However, the FACS social worker, Ms. Noonan-Jones, continued to provide care and assistance ...


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