In re Stephanie Y. Bradley, Respondent.
Argued March 21, 2013.
A Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No. 288910).
On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (BDN 240-04, 302-04).
Melvin G. Bergman for respondent.
Traci M. Tait, Assistant Bar Counsel, with whom Wallace E. Shipp. Jr., Bar Counsel, and Jennifer P. Lyman, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel, were on the brief, for the Office of Bar Counsel.
Before Washington, Chief Judge, Thompson, Associate Judge, and Schwelb, Senior Judge.
This disciplinary case is before us on exceptions filed by respondent, Stephanie Y. Bradley, to the Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (the "Board"). The Board found that respondent committed one violation of Rule 1.1 (a) (incompetence), one violation of Rule 1.1 (b) (failure to employ requisite skill and care commensurate with practitioners in similar matters), one violation of Rule 1.3 (a) (lack of diligence and zeal), one violation of Rule 1.3 (b)(1) (intentional failure to seek clients' lawful objectives), one violation of Rule 1.3 (c) (failure to act with reasonable promptness), and one violation of Rule 8.4 (d) (serious interference with administration of justice) in her role as court-appointed guardian for Calvin Beard between 1994 and 2004 and Mary E. Brooks between 1999 and 2003. The Board also found that respondent intentionally testified falsely at her disciplinary hearing before the Hearing Committee. The Board recommends sanctioning respondent with a two-year suspension followed by a requirement that she show her fitness to resume the practice of law. Respondent takes exception to the Board's finding that she was deliberately dishonest in her testimony before the Hearing Committee and the Board's enhanced sanction based on that finding. For the reasons stated below, we adopt the Board's findings and recommended sanction and order a two-year suspension, with reinstatement conditioned upon a showing of fitness.
A. Calvin Beard
In September 1994, respondent was appointed by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to serve as the guardian for Calvin Beard, a man with developmental disabilities who was also the victim of a severe head trauma that left him hospitalized for several months. Once Mr. Beard's condition stabilized, respondent arranged for his transfer on December 2, 1994 to Cuppett & Weeks, a nursing home located three to four hours from the District of Columbia in Oakland, Maryland. After his transfer, respondent almost completely abandoned Mr. Beard in the nursing home for the next ten years, visiting him only twice within an eight-year period, participating in none of the quarterly care plan meetings with the nursing home staff from 1995 until Mr. Beard was discharged nine years later, and filing only three of the required semi-annual reports to the Superior Court, two at the beginning of the period and one eight years later.
At the time of his injury, Mr. Beard was homeless and his family, who lived in Louisiana and Texas, did not know where he was. Respondent did not respond to repeated phone calls and letters from Mr. Beard's family, who independently located Mr. Beard in 1997, and ignored requests by the family to have him transferred to a nursing home facility near the family in Louisiana, as well as a direct transfer request from that nursing home. Mr. Beard's family testified that Mr. Beard wanted to move closer to them and had asked them to "get him out of there." In 2004, Mr. Beard's family retained counsel to have respondent removed as Mr. Beard's guardian and succeeded in transferring Mr. Beard to a halfway house in Texas near his brother. On July 13, 2004, Mr. Beard's brother filed a complaint against respondent with the Office of Bar Counsel.
B. Mary E. Brooks
In January 1999, respondent was appointed guardian and conservator by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for Mary E. Brooks, an elderly and infirm woman who had between $200, 000 and $250, 000 embezzled from one of her bank accounts by a purported family friend and caretaker, Ronnie Hall. Once appointed, respondent failed to prevent Mr. Hall from continuing to embezzle money from Ms. Brooks; failed to marshal, recover, and safeguard Ms. Brooks's assets; failed to file for benefits due Ms. Brooks under a life insurance policy and a civil service lump sum benefit; and failed to file Ms. Brooks's tax returns for the five years that respondent represented Ms. Brooks, resulting in unnecessary attachments and penalties. In 2003, Ms. Brooks's niece had her attorney, Steven Weinberg, petition to have respondent removed as personal representative of Ms. Brooks's estate and he was appointed in her stead. Mr. Weinberg sued respondent for the hundreds of thousands of dollars of losses sustained by Ms. Brooks and her estate during respondent's tenure, eventually recovering over $400, 000. On May ...