Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mbakpuo v. Ekeanyanwu

September 30, 1999

VICTOR C. MBAKPUO, APPELLANT
V.
THECLA EKEANYANWU, ET AL., APPELLEES



Terry and Ruiz, Associate Judges, and Belson, Senior Judge.

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

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Linda Turner Hamilton, Trial Judge)

Argued April 22, 1999

This case involves the unauthorized use of names in the letterhead of a law office. Appellant Mbakpuo appeals from an injunction prohibiting him from using the appellees' names without their permission. He claims that the trial court committed reversible error by (1) denying his motion to compel discovery and impose sanctions, (2) precluding him from calling appellee Agiliga as a witness, (3) excluding an exhibit that was not disclosed in a timely fashion prior to trial, (4) denying his motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, and (5) granting injunctive relief absent a showing of reasonably expected future harm.*fn1 We affirm.

I.

On September 2, 1994, appellees Valentine Anyaibe, Alexander Agiliga, and Thecla Ekeanyanwu filed this suit in the Superior Court, seeking an injunction to prohibit appellant Mbakpuo from using their names on his legal letterhead without their permission. A status hearing was held two weeks later, on September 16, but because he had to appear before a disciplinary committee in Ohio on that date, Mr. Mbakpuo was unable to attend the status hearing.*fn2

Discovery began in early November 1994. In late December Mr. Mbakpuo sent appellees two letters claiming that responses to his interrogatories and request for documents were overdue.*fn3 On January 6, 1995, he filed a motion to compel discovery and impose sanctions on the appellees, which the trial court denied.

In his opening statement at trial, Mbakpuo argued that an injunction should not be issued because he had no intention of using the appellees' names on his letterhead in the future. The trial Judge interrupted him to ask whether he was willing either to enter into a consent decree or simply to promise under oath that he would refrain from the challenged conduct. Mbakpuo declined to do either, telling the Judge that his reason for refusing to consent to a binding agreement was that he had "an interest in developing testimony here that [he would]use in perjury prosecution[s]...." He went on to explain:

"Someone prevented me from getting waived in [to the District of Columbia Bar]. D. C. only said if you can show us that you are associated with them in the practice of law, we will admit you. They wrote letters. They ask me if I can clearly show because I intend to use this record to further [sic] even if I have to dedicate my life to this."

After hearing further from Mr. Mbakpuo, the Judge ruled that the trial would go forward, saying, "I can't take away [the plaintiffs']day in court.... If you want to try to go through this litigation to prove some point down the road, then that's on you."

The events giving rise to appellees' suit began in 1993, when several complaints were lodged against Mr. Mbakpuo with this court's Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law. See D. C. Ct. App. R. 49. At that time Mbakpuo was an attorney working out of an office in the District of Columbia, but he was licensed to practice only in the state of Ohio and in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. In response to the complaints of unauthorized practice, Mr. Mbakpuo claimed that he was working under the supervision of the appellees, all of whom were admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, while his application for admission to the District of Columbia Bar on motion (i. e., without examination) was pending.

The appellees claimed that none of them had ever had any professional contact with Mbakpuo, with the exception of Ms. Ekeanyanwu.*fn4 Before being admitted to the District of Columbia Bar and joining the law firm of Anyaibe and Agiliga, Ms. Ekeanyanwu worked as a sole practitioner out of her home in Maryland. She represented clients in the District of Columbia, but only in matters before federal agencies. While working on one such case in late 1991, Ms. Ekeanyanwu sent several letters to the agency using Mr. Mbakpuo's letterhead. The last of these letters was mailed on February 18, 1992. In addition, Ms. Ekeanyanwu submitted five motions to enable Mr. Mbakpuo to appear pro hac vice in the District of Columbia Superior Court in accordance with D. C. Ct. App. R. 49 (c)(7). Ms. Ekeanyanwu maintained, however, that she was never associated with Mr. Mbakpuo in the practice of law, and that she never consented to the use of her name or her partners' names on his letterhead.

After the Committee on Unauthorized Practice initiated its investigation, Mr. Mbakpuo approached the appellees with sample letterhead bearing the heading "Mbakpuo, Ekeanyanwu, Anyaibe & Agiliga," but they declined to*fn5 consent to the use of their names alongside of his. Mbakpuo was apparently undeterred. The record contains a letter dated April 9, 1993, bearing his signature and purporting to be from the firm of "Mbakpuo, Ekeanyanwu, Anyaibe & Agiliga."

On June 7, 1993, the appellees sent a letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Unauthorized Practice stating that they had never been associated with Mr. Mbakpuo in the practice of law. Although a copy of this letter was also sent to Mbakpuo, he continued to use the disputed letterhead in his law practice. In April 1994 a dissatisfied client of Mbakpuo produced a letter, written by him on that letterhead, which had been sent in February of that year.*fn6 Given this persistent pattern of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.