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IN RE WILLIAMS

December 30, 1998

IN RE GEOFFREY T. WILLIAMS, RESPONDENT. A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS.


Before Steadman and Reid, Associate Judges, and Belson, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam:

This reciprocal discipline case comes to us from the Board on Professional Responsibility (the "Board"). *fn1 The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board (the "Virginia Board") revoked respondent's license on February 26, 1993, after concluding that respondent had violated the following Virginia disciplinary rules: DR 1-102(A)(3), committing a crime [722 A2d Page 329]

or deliberately wrongful act; DR 1-102(A)(4), engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; DR 5-101(A), failing to advise his client of conflicting interests; DR 5-104(A), engaging in a prohibited business transaction with a client; and DR 9-102(B)(3), failing to maintain complete records of all client funds.

The Supreme Court of Colorado disbarred respondent as reciprocal discipline for the Virginia matters on April 10, 1995. In early 1998, Bar Counsel learned of the Colorado and Virginia orders through the ABA National Disciplinary Data Bank, and informed this court. We referred this matter to the Board pursuant to D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 11. The Board recommends that respondent be disbarred as reciprocal discipline. Neither respondent nor Bar Counsel has noted an exception to the Board's report and recommendation. We agree that the respondent should be disbarred.

The facts pertaining to respondent's conduct are set forth in the portion of the Board's Report and Recommendation which is attached as an appendix to this opinion. It is sufficient for our purposes here to note that respondent's actions included the misappropriation of funds. Specifically, the findings of the Virginia Board demonstrate that respondent knowingly and intentionally misappropriated funds belonging to a client through a series of banking transactions involving his personal accounts and an escrow account of respondent's real estate settlement firm. This alone, without further consideration of respondent's other conduct, warrants disbarment.

In this jurisdiction, there is a rebuttable presumption that reciprocal discipline sanctions will be the same as those imposed by the original jurisdiction. See In re Gardner, 650 A.2d 693, 695 (D.C. 1994). As this court has repeatedly held, however, "in virtually all cases of misappropriation, disbarment will be the only appropriate sanction unless it appears that the misconduct resulted from nothing more than simple negligence." In re Addams, 579 A.2d 190, 191 (D.C. 1990) (en banc). The equivalent in our jurisdiction to Virginia's revocation of the respondent's license is a suspension for an indefinite period, with a showing of fitness required for reinstatement. See In re Brickle, 521 A.2d 271, 273 (D.C. 1987). Such a suspension constitutes a lesser sanction than disbarment. Id. Because misappropriation by conduct more culpable than simple negligence warrants disbarment, this jurisdiction's presumption that it should impose as reciprocal discipline the same sanction as imposed by the original jurisdiction has been overcome. D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 11(c)(4). Accordingly, it is

ORDERED that Geoffrey T. Williams, Esquire, be disbarred. For the purpose of respondent's seeking reinstatement to the bar, his disbarment shall commence with the filing of his affidavit pursuant to D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 14.

So ordered.

APPENDIX: EXCERPT FROM

Bar Docket No. 483-97

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

This matter was referred to the Board for consideration of reciprocal discipline following the revocation of Respondent's license to practice law by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board and his disbarment, based on the Virginia proceedings, by the Supreme Court of Colorado. For the reasons stated below, the Board recommends that Respondent's discipline in this Jurisdiction should be disbarment.

DISCUSSION

A. The Virginia ...


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