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In re MBA-Jonas

April 29, 2010

IN RE VICTOR MBA-JONAS, RESPONDENT.
MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS (BAR NO. 452042)



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

On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (BDN 98-07 and BDN 463-07).

Argued February 18, 2010

Before REID and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges, and STEADMAN, Senior Judge.

This case involves two reciprocal discipline matters. Due to misconduct in the handling of his attorney escrow account, the Court of Appeals of Maryland indefinitely suspended Respondent, Victor Mba-Jonas, on March 20, 2007, "with the right to reapply for readmission after 90 days." Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Mba-Jonas ("Mba-Jonas I"), 919 A.2d 669, 677 (Md. 2007). After Mr. Mba-Jonas later engaged in similar violations of Maryland's rules governing attorney conduct, the Court of Appeals of Maryland on December 4, 2007, examined the "two cases in conjunction," concluding that "the appropriate sanction is a continuation of the indefinite suspension with the right to reapply for readmission after six months from the date [the court's] opinion is filed." Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Mba-Jonas ("Mba-Jonas II"), 936 A.2d 839, 847 (Md. 2007).

The Board on Professional Responsibility submitted a December 21, 2007 Report and Recommendation in the first matter, recommending reciprocal discipline of ninety days suspension with a conditional requirement to "furnish proof of [Mr. Mba-Jonas's] rehabilitation in a proceeding under D.C. Bar R. XI, § 16." After disposition of the second matter by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the Board filed its Report and Recommendation, dated December 30, 2008, recommending identical reciprocal discipline of suspension from the practice of law in this jurisdiction "for a period of six months and that as a condition of reinstatement [Mr. Mba-Jonas] furnish proof of his rehabilitation in a proceeding under D.C. Bar R. XI, § 16." In both cases, the Board further recommended that he be "grant[ed] permission to move to vacate the fitness requirement if he is summarily reinstated in Maryland without objection from Maryland Bar Counsel."

Mr. Mba-Jonas took no exception to the Board's reports, and hence, he did not file a brief. However, Bar Counsel lodged an exception, contending that the appropriate sanction for these consolidated matters is presumptive disbarrment because Mr. Mba-Jonas allegedly engaged in reckless misappropriation of entrusted funds. We accept the recommendation of the Board concerning the proper sanction.

Furthermore, Bar Counsel contends that the sanction should not commence until March 3, 2010, the date on which Mr. Mba-Jonas filed an acceptable affidavit showing compliance with the requirements of D.C. Bar R. XI, § 14 (g). We agree with Bar Counsel as to the reciprocal sanction in Mba-Jonas I.

FACTUAL SUMMARY

The record reveals that the misconduct pertaining to Mr. Mba-Jonas's management of his escrow account took place between 2003 and 2005.*fn1 The factual findings made in the Maryland proceedings are set forth in Mba-Jonas I, 919 A.2d at 672-74, and Mba-Jonas II, 936 A.2d at 841-42. They need not be repeated here.

Maryland Bar Counsel recommended in Mba-Jonas II that Mr. Mba-Jonas be disbarred, but the Court of Appeals of Maryland rejected that recommendation. In "consider[ing] 'the nature and gravity of the violations and the intent with which they were committed,'" Mba-Jonas II, 936 A.2d at 846 (citations omitted), the court specifically concluded:

Neither of the actions against [Mr.] Mba-Jonas involves an intent to defraud, deceive, or steal from his clients. [The judge] found in the previous case that "[c]learly, he had no intent to defraud or steal from his clients. In fact, many of his problems resulted from his desire to accommodate his clients and to keep them satisfied with his representation." See Atty. Griev. Comm'n v. Mba-Jonas, [] 919 A.2d at 674. Likewise, in the present matter, [the judge] found that the "[c]court does not believe - nor has it been suggested - that the state of [Mr. Mba-Jonas's] escrow account is the result of dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

Id. at 846 (third alteration in original). The court stressed the trial judge's finding that "[Mr.] Mba-Jonas did not deceive his clients." Id.at 847.

The Maryland court cited as mitigating factors serious family problems with which Mr. Mba-Jonas was confronted at the time he mismanaged his escrow account. These included the terminal illness of his mother and the required dialysis of his brother-in-law who had no insurance, and the care of his six children - magnified by his wife's outside employment, all of which forced ...


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