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In re Pullings

February 11, 1999

IN RE RETNA M. PULLINGS, RESPONDENT. A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS


Before Farrell and Reid, Associate Judges, and Kern, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility

The Board on Professional Responsibility ("Board"), in accord with the Hearing Committee, has found that respondent, Retna M. Pullings, violated several Rules of Professional Conduct in the course of her representation of three different clients. *fn1 The Board also found that respondent violated D.C. Bar R. XI, § 2 (b)(3), by failing to respond to and comply with two Board orders.

As discipline for these violations, the Board recommends that respondent be suspended for sixty days, that the suspension be stayed, and that respondent be placed on one year of probation subject to conditions. The conditions of probation suggested by the Board are: (1) supervision by a practice monitor who will provide quarterly reports to the Board and Bar Counsel; (2) completion of at least six hours of CLE courses on ethics during the one-year probation period; (3) provision of written statements showing the rate or basis of her fee to all retained clients; (4) restitution to Ms. Pearline M. Hardy in the amount of $1,500.00 plus interest at the rate of 6% from February 3, 1995, before the expiration of the period of probation; (5) no new disciplinary complaints during the pendency of this proceeding that result in the filing of a specification of charges; (6) an additional year of probation if respondent fails to complete six hours of CLE ethics courses and make restitution by the end of the one-year period of probation; and (7) lifting of the stay of the sixty-day suspension if respondent fails to comply with these conditions by the end of the second year of probation.

Bar Counsel has informed the court that he takes no exception to the Board's report and recommendation. Respondent has not filed any exceptions to the Board's report and recommendation.

This court will accept the Board's findings as long as they are supported by substantial evidence in the record. D.C. Bar R. XI, § 9 (g)(1). Moreover, we will impose the sanction recommended by the Board "unless to do so would foster a tendency toward inconsistent Dispositions for comparable conduct or would otherwise be unwarranted." Id. Respondent's failure to file any exceptions to the Board's report and recommendation increases this court's already substantial deference to the Board. D.C. Bar R. XI, § 9 (g)(2); In re Delaney, 697 A.2d 1212, 1214 (D.C. 1997).

We find substantial support in the record for the Board's findings, and, accordingly, we accept them. Likewise, we adopt the sanction recommended by the Board, as it is not inconsistent with discipline imposed in similar cases. See, e.g., In re Dunietz, 687 A.2d 206 (D.C. 1996) (thirty-day suspension stayed and two years of probation imposed for neglecting a legal matter, failing to seek the lawful objectives of a client, failing to represent a client zealously and diligently, failing to act with reasonable promptness, and failing to keep a client reasonably informed); In re Steele, 630 A.2d 196 (D.C. 1993) (ordering restitution and sixty-day suspension with fitness requirement for neglecting a legal matter and engaging in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of Justice by failing to comply with a Board order and cooperate with Bar Counsel). Accordingly, it is

ORDERED that Retna M. Pullings is suspended from the practice of law in the District of Columbia for the period of sixty days, the suspension is stayed, and respondent is placed on probation for one year subject to the conditions that: (1) she be supervised by a practice monitor who will provide quarterly reports to the Board and Bar Counsel; (2) she complete at least six hours of CLE courses on ethics during the one-year probation period and provide proof of such to the practice monitor, who will forward it to the Board and Bar Counsel; (3) she provide all of her retained clients with written statements showing the rate or basis of her fee, and provide copies of such statements to the practice monitor; (4) she make restitution to Ms. Pearline M. Hardy in the amount of $1,500.00 plus interest at the rate of 6% from February 3, 1995, before the expiration of the period of probation, and provide proof of such restitution to the Board and Bar Counsel; (5) during the pendency of this proceeding, she not be the subject of any new disciplinary complaints that result in the filing of a specification of charges; (6) an additional year of probation will be imposed if respondent fails to complete six hours of CLE ethics courses and make restitution by the end of the one-year period of probation; and (7) the stay of the sixty-day suspension will be lifted if respondent fails to comply with these conditions by the end of the second year of probation, with compliance being a prerequisite to reinstatement.

So ordered.

APPENDIX

Respondent is a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ("Court"), having been admitted to the Bar on June 10, 1977. Respondent is charged with mishandling the matters of three clients.

In the first matter, Respondent was retained by Ms. Michelle Cash to assist her with two debt collection problems, and Ms. Cash turned over to Respondent the necessary files. Ms. Cash became dissatisfied with the representation and demanded the return of her files. Respondent's failure to return the files led Bar Counsel to charge her with violating Rule 1.16(d), failure to surrender client papers.

In the second matter, Respondent was retained by Ms. Pearline M. Hardy to represent her grandson, Mr. John Hardy, Jr., in his appeal of his criminal conviction. Ms. Hardy paid Respondent a total of $1500 to handle the appeal. Respondent never filed an appearance in the appellate proceeding, and took no action to perfect the appeal. The Court appointed the trial attorney to handle the appeal. This was unsatisfactory to the Hardys who wanted to raise the trial counsel's alleged ineffectiveness as a major issue on appeal. Nevertheless, due to Respondent's inactivity in the case, the trial counsel filed the appellate brief. Respondent failed to respond to inquiries from Bar Counsel and ignored an order issued by this Board to respond to Bar Counsel's request for information. Bar Counsel charged Respondent with a violation of Rule 1.3(a), failure to represent client zealously and diligently, Rule 1.3(b)(1), intentional failure to seek the ...


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