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.

FORD v. TAIT

September 25, 2001

JEFFREY M. FORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRACI M. TAIT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, U.S. District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

This attorney-disciplinary action comes before the court on the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Jeffrey M. Ford ("the plaintiff" or "Mr. Ford") brings this civil-rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Ford, an attorney proceeding pro se, alleges that Bar Counsel Joyce Peters, Assistant Bar Counsel Traci Tait, and Executive Attorney for the Board of Professional Responsibility Elizabeth Branda (collectively, "the defendants"), deprived him of procedural due process by: (1) delaying the resolution of disciplinary charges brought against him; (2) improperly notifying Maryland's Attorney Grievance Commission of disciplinary proceedings before the adjudication of the charges; and (3) administering the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct in a manner that violated Mr. Ford's rights to substantive and procedural due process. Mr. Ford also claims that the Bar Counsel filed charges against him with insufficient information.

In addition to the due-process allegations, Mr. Ford claims that the Bar Counsel violated his equal-protection rights, abused the attorney disciplinary process, negligently supervised its investigating attorney, and defamed him. Lastly, Mr. Ford claims that as a result of the defendants' actions, he has suffered emotional distress and closed his law practice. Accordingly, Mr. Ford seeks declaratory relief, a permanent injunction blocking the from reporting on the status of his disciplinary proceedings, and damages.

The defendants now move to dismiss, arguing that the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction and that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted. The court will not grant the defendants' motion on these grounds, but on the alternative argument raised by the defendants. In short, the court will apply the doctrine of equitable restraint and will grant the defendants' motion to dismiss on that ground.

II. BACKGROUND

A. The Parties

The plaintiff, Mr. Ford has been an attorney member of the District of Columbia Bar since 1983. See First Am. Compl. ("Compl.") ¶ 1. Defendant District of Columbia Bar is an organization of attorneys licensed to practice law by the D.C. Court of Appeals. See Mot. to Dis. at 2. The D.C. Court of Appeals established the Board of Professional Responsibility of the of Columbia Court of Appeals ("the Board"). See id. The D.C. Court of appoints nine members to the Board, which adopts rules and procedures, investigates allegations of attorney misconduct, appoints Hearing Committees to conduct hearings and to submit findings, and submits recommendations to the D.C. Court of Appeals. See id. at 3. As the Attorney for the Board, Elizabeth J. Branda supervises staff and assigns an attorney member of the Hearing Committee as a contact member to review the Bar Counsel's recommendations for dismissals, informal admonitions, and formal proceedings. See Compl. ¶ 5.

The Board appoints the Bar Counsel to act as the "disciplinary arm of the D.C. Courts." See Anderson v. D.C Public Defender Service, 756 F. Supp. 28, 31 (D.D.C. 1991) (citing D.C. Rules Ann. Bar Rule XI.), vacated in part on other grounds, 980 F.2d 746 (D.C.Cir. 1992). As Bar Counsel, Joyce E. Peters is responsible for investigating alleged attorney misconduct and prosecuting disciplinary matters before the Hearing Committee, the Board, and the D.C. Court of Appeals. See Mot. to Dis. at 3-4. Traci M. Tait is the Assistant Bar Counsel who investigated the allegations of professional misconduct involving Mr. Ford. See Compl. ¶ 7.

B. Investigations and Procedures

The Office of the Bar Counsel is responsible for processing complaints of attorney misconduct. See Compl. ¶ 6. After the Bar Counsel investigates allegations of misconduct, it initiates formal disciplinary proceedings and prosecutes the case before a three-member Hearing Committee appointed by the Board and in the presence of the attorney charged with misconduct, i.e., the respondent. See In the Matter of Dudley v. Williams, 513 A.2d 793, 794 (D.C. 1986). The respondent may choose to retain counsel. The Hearing Committee then submits findings, with the record of the proceedings, to the Board of Professional Responsibility. See id. The Board has the option to schedule oral arguments and can affirm, modify, remand, or dismiss the charges. The Board then submits its recommendation and the full record to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Upon request, the Court of Appeals may also hear oral argument. See id. Lastly, the Court of Appeals issues a final order. See id. The D.C. Court of Appeals will adopt the Board's recommendation, unless it rules that the recommendation is unwarranted or unsupported by "substantial evidence." See id.

An attorney may file an exception with the Board to the Hearing Committee's recommendation of disciplinary action. See Mot. to Dis. at 4. In addition, if the attorney disagrees with the Board's findings, the attorney may file an exception to the Court of Appeals. See id.

C. Mr. Ford's Alleged Ethical Violations

In March 1996, Mr. Ford filed an ethical complaint against attorney Valerie Bailey with the Office of Bar Counsel. In this complaint, Mr. Ford alleged that after his association with Ms. Bailey's law practice ended, she retained client files and client escrow funds belonging to Mr. Ford. See ¶ 8. The Bar Counsel conducted an inquiry into these charges. See id. ¶ 10. The Bar Counsel did not issue formal charges against Ms. Bailey, but did bring formal charges against Mr. Ford, based on Ms. Bailey's allegations of improper client representation. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dis. ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), Ex. 3. The Bar Counsel then issued an informal admonition against Mr. Ford is based on the following District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct:

1.1(a): a lawyer must provide competent to a client;

1.1(b): a lawyer must serve a client with skill and care commensurate with that generally afforded to clients by other in similar matters;
7.1(a): a lawyer shall not make false or misleading communication about himself ...

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.