A Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No.113449) On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (BDN 251-02, 344-02, 457-02, 2006-D015 & 2006-D071)
Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, THOMPSON, Associate Judge, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.
Respondent Karl W. Carter, Jr. was suspended from the practice of law by an order of this court on November 16, 2009. He takes exception to the Report and Recommendation issued by the Board on Professional Responsibility ("Board"), and argues for a reduced suspension from eighteen months to four months, and the removal of a recommended fitness requirement for reinstatement. The Office of Bar Counsel asks this court to find that respondent committed further violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and to double the length of respondent's suspension. We hereby adopt the recommendation of the Board suspending respondent from the practice of law for eighteen months and condition his reinstatement on a demonstration of fitness to practice law, proof of restitution to his clients, and cooperation with Bar Counsel in two matters.
Respondent's ethical violations stem from three matters: his representation of Messrs. Blount and Briscoe in their employment discrimination suit against the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing, his representation of Mr. Morgan against his employer, the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Services Department, and finally his failure to respond to inquiries during two Bar Counsel investigations.
Respondent agreed to represent Messrs. Blount and Briscoe in their employment discrimination matter stemming from their attempts at obtaining promotions while working at the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The clients were originally represented by another attorney who withdrew. The first attorney filed the initial civil claims. Upon retaining respondent as counsel in November of 2000, Mr. Blount and Mr. Briscoe agreed to split respondent's $10,000 fee. Respondent's father died in California in March of 2001, requiring respondent to make frequent cross-country trips. In May of 2001, respondent attended a status hearing during which a subsequent status hearing was set for July 13. Respondent failed to attend the July hearing. In August, respondent collapsed on one of his flights, which had to make an emergency landing, after which he was hospitalized for three days and treated for anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and hypertension. He filed a motion to extend the time he had to complete mediation in the case, which was granted. A post-mediation status hearing was set for October 26. Respondent failed to attend that hearing.
As a result of his failure to attend the hearing, respondent received a show cause order, which was also sent to his client Mr. Briscoe. After receiving the order, Mr. Briscoe called respondent and sent him fax messages inquiring as to why respondent failed to attend the hearing, and how he was going to address the order. Respondent never contacted Mr. Briscoe on the matter, but he did file a response to the show cause order with the court.
The United States filed a motion for summary judgment on December 5, 2001, but respondent failed to file a response before the December 19 deadline. On January 4, 2002, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Then, on January 7, respondent filed an opposition as well as a "Motion to File Late Time Having Expired," which were both denied. As grounds to file late, respondent stated that he had been in a car accident on December 24, 2001, five days after the opposition motion was due, and that his client Mr. Blount had undergone surgery during the holiday, rendering him presumptively unavailable to provide information related to the case. However, Mr. Blount testified that during the time of his surgery he was never hospitalized or unable to provide information to respondent concerning the case. During subsequent proceedings before the District of Columbia Bar Attorney-Client Arbitration Board ("ACAB"), Mr. Blount was awarded $4,350 for the return of unearned fees. Just prior to the commencement of ACAB proceedings between respondent and Mr. Briscoe, the parties reached a settlement agreement for $4,200.
In another matter, respondent represented Mr. Morgan, who was facing a three-day suspension as a paramedic with the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Services Department. Mr. Morgan thought he was being unlawfully discriminated against and on June 10, 1998, respondent agreed to represent Mr. Morgan for a fee of $5,000, of which $2,200 was paid. Mr. Morgan had already filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before retaining respondent. Respondent agreed that he would "send something in writing to the agency" for Mr. Morgan. Respondent failed to do so and later claimed he was waiting for a "right to sue" letter in order to file a civil suit. After being suspended without respondent acting on his claim, Mr. Morgan tried unsuccessfully to have respondent return his fee. Mr. Morgan subsequently filed a request for arbitration with the ACAB.
On January 16, 2001, the date of the ACAB hearing, respondent and Mr. Morgan entered into a settlement agreement for $2,000 to be paid in $500 installments. Respondent failed to send any of the installments. On March 2, 2001, respondent sent a letter purporting to include the first $500 installment payment, and promising to send a second installment on March 15. However, the March 2 letter did not include any payment, and respondent did not make a further installment payment on March 15, or on any future date. Mr. Morgan again went to the ACAB and received a $2,225 award. After this award was made, respondent was aware that the initial $500 installment was never paid to his client. Nevertheless, on multiple occasions during a subsequent investigation by Bar Counsel, respondent claimed that he had paid the first $500 installment to his former client.
The third matter relates to two Bar Counsel investigations. After opening the investigations, Bar Counsel sent respondent several requests for information. During the investigation, respondent failed to respond to those requests even after receiving orders from the Board compelling a response to Bar Counsel's letters of inquiry. He continued this trend after receiving orders from this court to comply with a subpoena duces tecum.
In reviewing decisions of the Board, we accept its findings of fact unless they are unsupported by substantial evidence of record, and we adopt its recommended disposition unless to do so would lead to inconsistent results for comparable conduct. In re Godette, 919 A.2d 1157, 1164 (D.C. 2007). While this court grants considerable deference to the Board's recommendations, "the responsibility for imposing ...