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In re Kleppin

March 22, 2001

IN RE CHRISTOPHER LINDSEY KLEPPIN
AN APPLICANT FOR ADMISSION TO THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS



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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

Christopher Lindsey Kleppin passed the February 1998 bar examination for the District of Columbia and is an applicant for admission to the bar. The Committee on Admissions (Committee) has recommended his admission despite the fact that in January 1992 Kleppin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana under Maryland state law, for which he was sentenced to a year of incarceration (six months of which was suspended in favor of lengthy probation). In 1996 Kleppin passed the Florida bar examination, but in 1998 he was denied admission to that bar.

D.C. App. R. 46 provides that bar applicants must demonstrate good moral character and fitness to practice law in the District of Columbia. In reviewing the Committee's determination that an applicant has met that burden, and its accompanying recommendation for admission, "[t]his court will accept findings of fact made by the Committee unless they are unsupported by substantial evidence of record, will make due allowance for the Committee's opportunity to observe and evaluate the demeanor of the applicant where relevant, and will afford the Committee's recommendations some deference . . . ." In re Mustafa, 631 A.2d 45, 47 (D.C. 1993) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

"[A] criminal conviction does not per se require exclusion of the applicant from the Bar." In re Sobin, 649 A.2d 589, 591 (D.C. 1994). But our decisions reflect the difficulty of determining what "proof of the requisite rehabilitation following conviction of a serious crime" will suffice to justify admission. In re Polin, 630 A.2d 1140, 1141 (D.C. 1993) (Polin II); compare, e.g., Sobin, supra (admitting applicant) with Mustafa, supra (denying admission). We therefore benefit from - and give corresponding deference to - painstaking analysis of the application such as the Committee engaged in in this case. Moreover, as when we impose attorney discipline, our decisions regarding admission must aim to treat like cases alike. Cf. D.C. Bar R. XI, § 9 (g)(1) (the court "shall adopt the recommended disposition of the Board [on Professional Responsibility] unless to do so would foster a tendency toward inconsistent dispositions for comparable conduct").

The Committee was "guided substantially" by the similarities between this case and Polin, supra, and we also perceive its strong resemblance - in terms of both offense conduct and proof of rehabilitation - to Sobin, supra. See 649 A.2d at 590-92. Both of those decisions adopted the recommendation for admission. At a lengthy hearing, the Committee assessed Kleppin's comportment since the crime and heard corroborative testimony of his rehabilitation that apparently had not been presented to the Florida bar officials. Essentially for the reasons stated by the Committee, whose report we attach hereto, we accept and adopt the recommendation of the Committee and grant Kleppin's application for admission to the bar of the District of Columbia. *fn1

So ordered.

APPENDIX

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTEE ON ADMISSIONS

FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE COMMITTEE ON ADMISSIONS

Christopher Lindsey Kleppin has applied to become a member of the District of Columbia Bar.

Mr. Kleppin passed the February 1998 bar examination. However, his application disclosed that he had been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, which charge was dismissed, convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, for which he was incarcerated and placed on probation, and denied admission to the Florida Bar. Consequently, the Committee on Admissions ("Committee") initiated an investigation and conducted a formal hearing on his application pursuant to D.C. App. R. 46(f).

The Committee now finds that Mr. Kleppin has demonstrated his complete rehabilitation by clear and convincing evidence and, accordingly, that he possesses the requisite good moral character and general fitness to practice law. See In re Polin, 630 A.2d 1140 (D.C. 1993) (Polin II) (approving admission of applicant convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine who had demonstrated his rehabilitation within six and one-half years of his release from prison). Therefore, the Committee recommends that he be admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.

FINDINGS OF FACT

Mr. Kleppin passed the February 1998 bar examination. His application for admission indicates that he was graduated from the University of Maryland in December 1990 with a Bachelors of Science degree and from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in May 1996 with a Juris Doctor. (R.23) Prior to applying to the D.C. Bar, Mr. Kleppin applied to the Florida Bar. As of the date of his application to this Bar, his Florida application was pending (R.6), but the Florida Board of Bar Examiners recommended against his admission on June 2, 1998 (R.84-95), and the Florida Supreme Court denied a petition for review. (R.647)

Criminal History

Mr. Kleppin grew up in rural Tennessee and moved with his family to Anne Arundel County, MD, after he was graduated from high school. He attended Anne Arundel County Community College from 1986 until 1988, and the University of Maryland at College Park from September 1988 until December 1990. While a student at the University of Maryland, in 1989, Mr. Kleppin joined a fraternity and he was introduced to marijuana, which he used from mid-1989 until the early Fall of 1990. (R.18-19, 854) Shortly after he started using marijuana, Mr. Kleppin learned that he could sell it. Mr. Kleppin sold drugs occasionally for the next eighteen months approximately, until late January 1991. By his count, he engaged in some 16-20 transactions, from which he profited $50 or $100 per pound sold. (R.846, 855) For a period of time, Mr. Kleppin never acquired less than one pound for sale, and he would sometimes obtain as much as five to ten pounds on consignment. (R.22) There were also approximately two times that Mr. Kleppin sold cocaine. (R.20)

Mr. Kleppin's criminal activities led to two arrests. He was arrested first on June 1, 1990 in Hyattsville, MD and charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, a device to smoke marijuana. (R.65) That charge was dismissed. (R.21) According to Mr. Kleppin, he had the misfortune of being present at the home of an associate when the Hyattsville City police executed a warrant for the associate's arrest. Mr. Kleppin and others who were present were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia that was in plain view at the time of the arrest. (R.19-21) Mr. Kleppin had previously sold marijuana and cocaine to this associate, although not on that occasion.

Following this arrest, Mr. Kleppin resumed selling marijuana in the Fall of 1990. (R.22) On December 5, 1990, Mr. Kleppin supplied a quantity of marijuana to the target of an undercover investigation. (R.98) The target then informed on Mr. Kleppin. (R. 22-24, 846-854) A "sting" was set up, and Mr. Kleppin was again arrested on January 31, 1991, for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. (R.28) Mr. Kleppin and other suppliers and co-conspirators were later indicted on March 1, 1991. (R.30) He was named in five counts of the twenty-two count indictment, charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute (two counts), and possession of marijuana. (R.29-37)

Mr. Kleppin pleaded guilty on January 24, 1992 to conspiracy to distribute marijuana, a misdemeanor, and the other charges were dismissed. (R.96-109) Mr. Kleppin had already offered to cooperate with the State's Attorney and the Prince George's County Police prior to the entry of his plea. (R.24) As part of the plea agreement, the prosecutor agreed to make an affirmative recommendation for a suspended sentence if Mr. Kleppin cooperated with the State. (R.99, 102) Mr. Kleppin provided assistance through his sentencing. (R.104) And, between the guilty plea and the sentencing, in Fall 1992, Mr. Kleppin enrolled in law school. (R.100)

At the sentencing, the prosecutor informed the court that Mr. Kleppin had provided "useful valuable information," that he had maintained regular contact with the Prince George's County Police, and that his cooperation was "successful." (R.105, 106) The prosecutor recommended a sentence of probation. (R.105) However, the court rejected the recommendation, and Mr. Kleppin was sentenced to a term of one year's incarceration, with all but six months suspended, plus five years of probation. ...


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