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In re Stanback

December 29, 2006

IN RE CLARENCE F. STANBACK, JR., RESPONDENT. A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS (BAR REGISTRATION NO. 960740)


Per curiam.

On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (DBN 2005-117)

Submitted December 5, 2006

Before RUIZ, GLICKMAN and THOMPSON, Associate Judges.

Respondent Clarence F. Stanback, Jr. was disbarred in 1996 for misappropriation of client funds. See In re Stanback, 681 A.2d 1109, 1110 (D.C. 1996). In a Report and Recommendation dated September 12, 2006, a copy of which is attached hereto, the Board on Professional Responsibility (the "Board") agreed with the recommendation of the Hearing Committee that respondent be reinstated to membership in the Bar of this Court and to the practice of law in the District of Columbia. For the reasons set out in the Hearing Committee's July 19, 2006 report, which the Board adopted as its own, the Board found that respondent has proven by clear and convincing evidence that he meets the requirements of District of Columbia Court of Appeals Rule XI, ¶ 16(d), in that he has the moral qualifications, competency, and learning in law required for readmission to the practice of law, and that his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the Bar or to the administration of justice or subversive to the public interest.

The Office of Bar Counsel takes no exception to the Board's recommendation, to which we therefore give heightened deference. See In re Fogel, 728 A.2d 668, 668 (D.C. 1999); see also D.C. Bar R.XI, § 16 (e). Accordingly, we accept the Board's recommendation, and it is hereby

ORDERED that Clarence F. Stanback, Jr. shall be reinstated, without condition, to the practice of law in the District of Columbia, effective immediately.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

In the Matter of: CLARENCE F. STANBACK, JR., Bar Docket No. 117-05 Petitioner. :Prior Proceedings: : No. 91-BG-1527 (D.C. July 30, 1996) A Member of the Bar of the Wagner, C.J., Steadman J., and King, J. District of Columbia Court of Appeals : (Bar Registration No. 960740)

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

Petitioner in this proceeding seeks reinstatement to the District of Columbia Bar nine years after his disbarrment for intentional misappropriation of estate funds. See In re Stanback, 681 A.2d 1109 (D.C. 1996). The petition was assigned to Hearing Committee Three. A hearing was held on July 13, 2005. After full posthearing briefing, the Committee, on July 19, 2006, issued its report finding that Petitioner had established by clear and convincing evidence the requirements for reinstatement set forth in D.C. Bar R. XI, § 16(d) and recommending that he be reinstated. Bar Counsel, by letter dated August 19, 2006, advised the Board that it takes no exception to the Committee's report.

We have examined the record in this matter and conclude that the Committee's findings are fully supported by substantial evidence in the record and that Petitioner demonstrated, by clear and convincing evidence, his fitness to practice law. Under these circumstances, we adopt as our own and incorporate herein the Hearing Committee's Report and the Findings of Fact and Analysis stated therein. A copy of the Hearing Committee's Report is appended hereto.

RECOMMENDATION

We find that petitioner Clarence F. Stanback, Jr. (1) has the moral qualifications, competency, and learning in law required for the practice of law, and (2) that his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the Bar, or to the administration of justice, or subversive to the public interest. Accordingly, we recommend that the Court find Petitioner fit to resume the practice of law and that, pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 16(f), the Court enter an order of reinstatement, without condition.

BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

By ________________________________________

James P. Mercurio

Dated:

All members of the Board concur in this Report and Recommendation, except Ms. Coghill-Howard, who did not participate.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

HEARING COMMITTEE NUMBER THREE

In the Matter of: CLARENCE F. STANBACK, JR., Petitioner.

Bar Docket No. 2005-D117 Prior Proceedings: No. 91-BG-1527 (BDN 237-91) ) (D.C. July 30, 1996) (Wagner, J., ) Steadman, J., and King, J.)

REPORTANDRECOMMENDATIONOF HEARING COMMITTEE NUMBER THREE

This matter comes to Hearing Committee Number Three on the petition of Clarence F. Stanback, Jr. (hereinafter, "Petitioner"), for reinstatement to the District of Columbia Bar, following a nine-year period of disbarrment for intentional misappropriation of estate funds from his client trust account. See In re Clarence F. Stanback, Jr., 681 A.2d 1109 (D.C. 1996) (per curiam), Attachment A to Petition for Reinstatement. For the reasons discussed below, the hearing committee finds that Petitioner has established by clear and convincing evidence the requirements for reinstatement set forth in D.C. Bar R. XI, § 16(d),*fn1 as interpreted and expanded upon in In re Roundtree, 503 A.2d 1215, 1217 (D.C. 1985). We recommend that the petition be granted and Petitioner reinstated.

I. FACTS

A. Background on Disbarrment

Petitioner was admitted to the practice of law in the District of Columbia on September 20, 1978. See In re Clarence F. Stanback, Jr., BDN 237-91 (HC Report, November 16, 1993) at 4. Bar Counsel's Exhibit 5. He was ordered disbarred on July 30, 1996, based upon the Court's adoption of the Board's findings that he violated the following disciplinary rules: failure to preserve the identity of estate funds in an identifiable account (DR 9-103(A)); intentional misappropriation (DR 9-03(A)(2)); failure to maintain complete records of estate funds coming into his possession (DR 9-103(B)(3)); and neglect of a legal matter (DR 6-101(A)(3)) (1991).*fn2 In re Clarence F. Stanback, Jr., 681 A.2d at 1110, 1119. BC Exh. 3. The Court also found that Petitioner violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by commingling/misappropriating funds (Rule 1.15(a)) and failing to keep complete records (Rule 1.15(b)); failing to promptly deliver funds and to tender full accounting (Rule 1.16(d)); failing to protect an estate's interest after termination of the representation by promptly surrendering paper or property (Rule 1.16(d)); failing to represent the client zealously and diligently (Rule 1.3(a); and interfering with the administration of justice (Rule 8.4(d)) (1991).

All of the violations found grew out of Petitioner's representation of Kathleen and Andrew Doig, which commenced in the fall of 1986 when Petitioner was retained to assist the Doigs as personal representatives of the heirs in probating the estate of Alice Kelly. In re Stanback, 681 A.2d at 1111. In a split decision, Associate Judge King, joined by Steadman, A.J., writing for the Court, found that Bar Counsel and Petitioner stipulated to most of the facts supporting the charges.*fn3 The opinion of the Court also noted that Petitioner admitted the violations charged. Id. However, in that proceeding, Petitioner challenged the hearing committee's findings relating to the timing of the misappropriation, contending that the misconduct occurred no earlier than March of 1991, "a time when it is essentially undisputed that his alcoholism substantially affected his professional conduct." In re Stanback, 681 A.2d at 1111. Additionally, he argued that, since he was disabled by alcoholism and thus unable to form intent, the denial of his Kersey defense*fn4 was error. Id. The Board sustained the hearing committee's rejection of Petitioner's proposed findings on both points. Id.

The Court majority found "substantial evidence, not satisfactorily rebutted, that the misappropriation occurred at an earlier time" than that asserted by Petitioner, and sustained the findings of the Board that the misappropriation therefore could not have been caused by the later-occurring disability. In re Stanback, 681 A.2d at 1114-15.*fn5 In particular, the Court held that Petitioner failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that his ability to carry out his professional duties was impaired by alcoholism at the time he misappropriated client funds. Id., 681 A.2d at 1116-17. Accordingly, the Court ordered mandatory disbarrment for intentional misappropriation of client funds. Id., 681 A.2d at 1119.

Chief Judge Wagner dissented on the ground that Petitioner established his disability and its connection with his misconduct. Id., 681 A.2d at 1120.

B. Petitioner's Decline and Fall in His Professional and Personal Life

Although the hearing committee in the underlying disciplinary proceeding held that Petitioner failed to prove Kersey mitigation (alcoholism) at the time of the misappropriation, the committee's findings on this subject, which were accepted by the Board and adopted by the Court, provide a picture of a person spiraling out of control on alcohol and drugs, beginning in 1988 until 1992, resulting in a descent from the pinnacle of his profession*fn6 to the depths of financial ruin and loss of reputation, and whose self-destructive behavior resulted in enormous personal losses.

Petitioner's gradual disintegration can be seen over the course of his handling of the Kelly probate case. Initially, in 1986, petitioner agreed to advise the personal representatives of the estate of Alice Kelly, who died in that year. BC Exh. 4, In re Stanback, BPR Rpt., at p. 2. In late August 1990, at the direction of Petitioner, Ms. Doig closed out the estate bank account in West Virginia, and sent a check in the amount of $10,979.75, payable to Petitioner's trust account. Id. Petitioner deposited the check in that account. Id. Two months later, without the knowledge or consent of his clients, Petitioner withdrew $8,000.00 from the trust account, and commingled the trust funds with funds in his office operating account. He used estate funds to pay his landlord $15,000.00. Id.

Petitioner also owed the IRS money. Apparently, the IRS placed a levy on his trust account. Id. at 3. Petitioner withdrew the remaining trust funds around that time, and commingled them with personal funds in a strongbox he kept at home until March 1991. Id.

By November 1990, the balance in the trust account dropped to $5,355.02. Id. at 3. The amount in the trust account remained below $10, 979.75 from December 3, 1990 though the end of January 1991. Id. at 3. The amount in the trust account again fell below $10,979.75 at the end of February 1991, and thereafter never rose to the level owed the estate. Id. Petitioner testified at the disciplinary hearing that he "sat on the money" until March 1991, then began using the funds "to live on, to pay obligations." Id.

After years of inaction in the probate proceeding, Petitioner's misconduct was brought to light when two of the heirs to the Kelly estate filed complaints with Bar Counsel in May 1991. Id. at 3. Petitioner failed to respond to their ...


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