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In re Holdmann

November 06, 2003


On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (BDN 287-00)

Before Terry, Schwelb, and Glickman, Associate Judges.

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

Argued October 23, 2003

On November 7, 2002, the Board on Professional Responsibility (BPR or Board) recommended that this court impose reciprocal discipline against Lee F. Holdmann, Esquire, a member of our Bar. Holdmann opposes the recommendation, contending that the discipline suggested by the Board - public censure -differs inappropriately from the sanction imposed by the Maryland Court of Appeals. Because Holdmann has waived any objection to the Board's recommendation by failing to present any challenge to the Board, we follow that recommendation and publicly censure Holdmann.


On July 27, 2000, in an order which was issued by consent, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a reprimand to Holdmann. In the negotiated settlement that led to the Maryland discipline, Holdmann admitted, with respect to two of five charges brought against him by Maryland's Attorney Grievance Commission, that he had violated three Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct by not promptly complying with reasonable requests for information from his clients and by not diligently pursuing the clients' legal matters. *fn1 The remaining allegations against Holdmann were dismissed. As a part of the negotiated discipline, Holdmann was required to pay costs of $8,252.86. Further, the order, while otherwise public, was not to be published in the Maryland Reporter or in the Atlantic Reporter, Second Series.

On September 18, 2000, Bar Counsel submitted to this court a certified copy of the order of the Maryland Court of Appeals. Three days later, this court referred the m atter to the BPR for its recommendation, inter alia, as to whether a sanction identical to Maryland's, or a greater or lesser sanction, should be imposed as reciprocal discipline. The court's order also stated:

ORDERED that Bar Counsel inform the Board on Professional Responsibility of h[er] position regarding reciprocal discipline within 30 days of the date of this order. Thereafter, respondent shall show cause before the Board on Professional Responsibility, if cause there be, within 10 days why identical, greater o[r] lesser discipline should not be imposed in the District of Columbia.

On October 2, 2000, Bar Counsel submitted her Statement to the Board and recommended that Holdmann be publicly censured as reciprocal discipline. Although, as noted above, Holdmann had been advised by the court both that he had the right to respond to Bar Counsel's Statement and that the Board could recommend a greater (or lesser) sanction than that imposed in Maryland, he did not respond to the order to show cause, nor did he participate in any way in the proceedings before the Board. On November 7, 2002, the Board, in a unanimous nine-page Report, recommended (in conformity with the views of Bar Counsel) that Holdmann be publicly censured. The Board did not recommend that Holdmann be required to pay costs. Holdmann then excepted to the Board's recommendation, and the case is now before us.


In this court, Holdmann argues for the first time that public censure should not be imposed as reciprocal discipline on the basis of his consent to what he characterizes as a private reprimand in Maryland, *fn2 especially since Holdmann did not adm it the specific facts underlying the conceded Maryland violations. We take no position on the m erits of his argument, how ever, because he has waived the issue by not presenting it to the Board.

"[D]isbarment, suspension, or censure of an attorney can be made effective only upon an order of this court." In re Dwyer, 399 A.2d 1, 11 (D.C. 1979). "In the final analysis, the responsibility to discipline lawyers is the court's. The buck stops here." In re Shillaire, 549 A.2d 336, 342 (D.C. 1988). Nevertheless, "[w]e have consistently held that an attorney who fails to present a point to the Board waives that point and cannot be heard to raise it for the first time here." In re Abrams, 689 A.2d 6, 9 (D.C.), cert. denied, 521 U.S. 1121 (1997) (quoting In re Ray, 675 A.2d 1381, 1386 (D.C. 1996)) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord, In re Williams, 464 A.2d 115, 118 (D.C. 1983) (per curiam) ("[s]ince the lack of verification is not a jurisdictional defect, respondent has waived [it] by failing to object [before the Board];" In re James, 452 A.2d 163, 168-69 (D.C. 1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1035 (1983) (holding that lack of notice is w aived when it is not raised before the Board and Hearing Committee, and collecting analogous authorities). We have also specifically held that an attorney waives the right to contest the imposition of reciprocal discipline when he or she does not oppose the proposed discipline before the Board or fails to respond to the court's show cause order. See, e.g., In re Harper, 785 A.2d 311, 316 (D.C. 2001) ("[t]reating an opposition filed for the first time in this court as equivalent to a timely response to the show cause order thwarts the operation of a disciplinary system that depends heavily on the Board's expertise in m aking recommendations"); In re Berger, 737 A.2d 1033, 1044-45 (D.C. 1999); In re Spann, 711 A.2d 1262, 1265 (D.C. 1998). *fn3 In In re Goldsborough, 654 A.2d 1285, 1287 (D.C. 1995), we explained that the court had issued an order requiring Goldsborough to show cause, if any there be, why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed. By failing even to respond to that order, Goldsborough has effectively defaulted on the issue whether such cause exists.

The same is true in this case. Although the final decision is necessarily ours, regardless of whether a respondent has preserved an issue, we find no reason in ...

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