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In re Shearin

December 28, 2000

IN RE K. KAY SHEARIN, RESPONDENT.
A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS



Before Steadman, Schwelb, and Glickman, Associate Judges.

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

On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility

Argued November 16, 2000

This reciprocal disciplinary matter is based on a proceeding which was instituted against respondent K. Kay Shearin in Delaware. See In re Shearin, 721 A.2d 157 (Del. 1998), cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1122 (1999) (Shearin I). In Shearin I, the Supreme Court of Delaware suspended Ms. Shearin from practice in that jurisdiction "for a period of one year commencing January 1, 1999, and ending upon her reinstatement, for which application may be made after January 1, 2000." Id. at 166. Rule 23 (a) of Delaware's Rules of Professional Responsibility has provided at all relevant times that "[r]einstatement following suspension of more than 6 months o[r] disbarrment shall require that proof of rehabilitation be demonstrated in a reinstatement proceeding culminating in a court order of reinstatement."

Ms. Shearin is also a member of the District of Columbia Bar. Following the institution of reciprocal disciplinary proceedings in this jurisdiction, our Board of Responsibility recommended that this court impose identical discipline and suspend Ms. Shearin for one year, with a requirement that she be reinstated only upon proof of fitness to practice. Ms. Shearin has excepted to the Board's recommendation, claiming that "as the Board has not proved any violation, no sanction can be appropriate." We impose the discipline recommended by the Board.

I.

As noted in the Board's Report, this is "a case of zealous advocacy that has run amok and crossed the line into the realm of vexatious litigation." Briefly, Ms. Shearin, a resident of Delaware who practiced primarily in that state, represented a "Conference" of Methodist churches in a "highly contentious dispute," see Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Maryland v. K. Kay Shearin, Docket Subtitle AG 2, slip op. at 1 (Md. Nov. 6, 2000) (Shearin II), with one of its local member churches. The member church seceded from the Conference, and, according to the Board, the controversy, which centered on the ownership of certain church property, generated no fewer than twenty different proceedings in the Delaware courts, in the United States Bankruptcy Court, and in the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Shearin's actions during these proceedings also precipitated disciplinary proceedings in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia.

In Delaware, three disciplinary petitions containing a total of twenty-nine separate counts were instituted against Ms. Shearin. The Delaware Board of Professional Responsibility found by clear and convincing evidence that Ms. Shearin had committed a substantial number of violations of that jurisdiction's disciplinary rules. *fn1 The Supreme Court of Delaware sustained the Delaware Board's findings and conclusions and, as noted above, suspended Ms. Shearin from practice for one year.

Following the imposition of discipline in Delaware, the District's Bar Counsel filed with this court a copy of the order suspending Ms. Shearin from practice. This court referred the matter to the Board on Professional Responsibility. On March 28, 2000, the Board recommended the imposition of reciprocal discipline, to consist of a one-year suspension with reinstatement conditioned on proof of fitness. The matter is before the court on the Board's recommendation and Ms. Shearin's exceptions thereto.

II.

As the Board recognized in its Report and Recommendation, reciprocal discipline will be imposed in the District of Columbia "unless the attorney demonstrates, or the [c]court finds on the face of the record on which the discipline is predicated, by clear and convincing evidence," that one of five enumerated exceptions applies:

(1) The procedure elsewhere was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process; or

(2) There was such infirmity of proof establishing the misconduct as to give rise to the clear conviction that the Court could not, consistently with its duty, accept ...


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