An Administratively Suspended Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No. 955633)
On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility
Before BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judge, and TERRY and FARRELL Senior Judges.
The Board on Professional Responsibility ("Board") has found that respondent, Ralph T. Mabry, Jr., Esquire, violated eleven Rules of Professional conduct, including findings that he intentionally misappropriated client funds (Rule 1.15 (a)); failed to competently and zealously represent his client (Rules 1.1 (a) and (b) and 1.3 (a) and ( c)); failed to protect his client's interests once removed (Rule 1.16 (d)); failed to deliver funds and records to his client (Rule 1.15 (b)); engaged in dishonest conduct (Rule 8.4 ( c)); failed to seek his client's lawful objectives and intentionally prejudiced or damaged his client (Rule 1.3 (b)(1) and (b)(2)); and seriously interfered with the administration of justice (Rule 8.4 (d)). In light of these violations the Board has concluded that he should be disbarred and that any reinstatement be conditioned on his payment of restitution in the amount of $12,003.66, plus interest, representing the amount of unaccounted funds withdrawn from the Estate.
Respondent's misconduct occurred during his brief appointment as the Personal Representative for the Estate of Norvel Lee. In brief, after respondent was appointed as a successor Personal Representative in 1998, he filed one report in September 1998 that identified one bank account that held $21,481.80. Thereafter, until he was removed in August 1999, respondent failed to file any inventory or accounting and wrote five checks on the Estate's account. Since no inventory was filed, it is unclear to whom the checks were issued, or their purpose. Additionally, once respondent was removed as Personal Representative by the trial court, he wrote two additional checks on the account totaling $10,500.00. Respondent also failed to turn over the Estate's files and financial records to the newly appointed Personal Representative. When the newly appointed Personal Representative took over the Estate, its assets consisted of $9,395.57. The trial court appointed an auditor master to perform an accounting. The auditor master sought information from the respondent, but after a thorough search, respondent could not be located. Therefore, the report from the auditor master was based on reconstructed facts and information from heirs, who stated that they had not received any proceeds or payments from respondent. After receiving the auditor's report, the trial court entered two judgments against respondent in the amount of $17,626.57.
The matter was then referred to Bar Counsel, who opened an
investigation in 2007. Thereafter, Bar Counsel sought to contact
respondent; however, even with the use of a process server and
investigator, Bar Counsel was unable to locate respondent.*fn1
Further, respondent failed to update his address with the
Bar, resulting in the Office of Bar Counsel filing a request with this
court for permission to serve respondent by publication. That request
After service was made by publication, the matter was referred to an Ad Hoc Committee of the Board that conducted a hearing and issued a twenty-seven page report. The committee concluded that respondent's conduct violated each of the Rules of Professional Conduct listed above. The committee further concluded that except for the check to pay a surety fee, there was sufficient evidence to determine that respondent intentionally misappropriated money from the Estate. The Board concurred with the findings and recommendation of the hearing committee. Bar Counsel has filed a statement that he takes no exception to the report and recommendation. [Respondent has not participated.]
This court will accept the Board's findings as long as they are supported by substantial evidence in the record. D.C. Bar R. XI, § 9 (g)(1). Here, although much of the evidence is circumstantial, it demonstrates that respondent intentionally misappropriated money from the Estate. We agree with the Board that, except for $75.00 respondent used to pay the premium of his surety bond, respondent intentionally misappropriated all other funds taken from the Estate in violation of Rule 1.15 (a), at a time when he had exclusive control of the Estate account.*fn3 Moreover, the court will impose the sanction recommended by the Board "unless to do so would foster a tendency toward inconsistent dispositions for comparable conduct or would otherwise be unwarranted." Id. We find no such inconsistency in this case. See In re Addams, 579 A.2d 579 A.2d 190 (D.C. 1990)(en banc)(disbarrment is the appropriate sanction for intentional misappropriation).
Finally, our deference to the Board in this case is heightened by the fact that neither Bar Counsel nor respondent has opposed its report and recommendation. D.C. Bar R. XI, § 9 (g)(2); In re Delaney, 697 A.2d 1212, 1214 (D.C. 1997). We therefore accept the Board's findings and recommendation and it is, accordingly,
ORDERED that Ralph T. Mabry, Jr., Esquire, is hereby disbarred from the practice of law in the District of Columbia. For purposes of reinstatement, respondent's disbarrment will be deemed to have commenced on the date he files an affidavit in compliance with D.C. Bar R. XI, § 14 (g). Additionally, for purposes of reinstatement, respondent must demonstrate that he has reimbursed the Estate, its beneficiaries, and/or the Clients' Security Fund in the amount of $12, 033.66 plus accrued interest.