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In re Vesel

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 25, 2014

IN RE DAVID A. VESEL, RESPONDENT

Submitted May 7, 2014.

A Suspended Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. (Bar Registration No. 423456). (BDN 462-13).

David A. Vesel, Pro se.

Wallace E. Shipp, Jr., Bar Counsel, and William R. Ross, Assistant Bar Counsel, were on the brief for the Office of Bar Counsel.

Before THOMPSON, BECKWITH, and EASTERLY, Associate Judges.

OPINION

Page 152

Thompson, Associate Judge:

Respondent David A. Vesel was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar on April 9, 1990, and in 1994 was also admitted to practice in North Carolina. After a hearing on April 24, 2013, the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar (" the Hearing Commission" ) disbarred him from the practice of law in that jurisdiction, finding, inter alia, that he embezzled thousands of dollars in entrusted client funds. As he was required to do by D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (b), respondent self-reported his North Carolina discipline to the District of Columbia Bar, and on February 12, 2014, this court suspended him from the practice of law in the District of Columbia on an interim basis[1] and ordered him to show cause why he should not be disbarred in this jurisdiction. The Office of Bar Counsel (" Bar Counsel" ) recommends that we apply reciprocal discipline and disbar respondent. Concluding that none of the exceptions to the general presumption in favor of reciprocal discipline that respondent invokes is applicable in this case, we accept Bar Counsel's recommendation and order respondent's disbarment.

I.

After the April 24, 2013, hearing, the North Carolina Hearing Commission issued an Order of Discipline (" Order" ) in which it set out detailed findings of fact based upon what it found was " clear, cogent and convincing evidence." The Hearing Commission concluded as a matter of law that, at various times between January 2005 and June 2008, respondent violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct of the North Carolina State Bar (the " State Bar" ): Rule 1.15-3 (d) (failure to reconcile trust accounts); Rule 5.4 (a) (sharing legal fees with a non-lawyer); Rule 1.15-2 (a) (failure to maintain entrusted client property separate from property of the lawyer); Rule 1.15-2 (j) (using entrusted client property for the benefit of others without client authorization); Rule 8.4 (b) (committing criminal acts that " reflect[] adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer" );

Page 153

Rule 8.4 (c) (" engag[ing] in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" ); Rule 5.3 (failure to " make reasonable efforts to ensure" that a non-lawyer employee's conduct is " compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer" ); Rule 1.15-2 (m) (failure to " promptly pay or deliver to the client, [and] to third persons as directed by the client, . . . entrusted property belonging to the client" ); Rule 1.3 (failure to " act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client" ); Rule 1.15-2 (h) (drawing items on trust accounts without " indicat[ing] on the item[s] the client balance on which the item is drawn" ); and Rule 1.15-2 (i) (drawing an item on a trust account " made payable to cash or bearer" ). The facts establishing these violations involved several real estate matters in which respondent (and at times his employee Cynthia Driscoll, an " independent contract paralegal for [Respondent's] law practice" ), among other things, withdrew from client trust accounts funds to which he was not entitled, failed to pay clients' creditors with funds that clients had entrusted to him for that purpose, failed for several months to disburse funds for the payment of title insurance premiums, and collected legal fees from a trust account even though he " did not have any funds in [the account] that he was entitled to receive." The Hearing Commission found that in one real estate matter (the Parrish matter), the result of respondent's failure to pay off the $248,002 first mortgage on the property (for which pay-off there were " insufficient funds in [respondent's] trust accounts" ) was that foreclosure proceedings were instituted against the clients' home and the clients' credit ratings were severely damaged. The Hearing Commission Order disbarred respondent from the practice of law.

Respondent argues that this court should not impose reciprocal discipline because (1) the procedure before the Hearing Commission " constituted a deprivation of due process" ; (2) " there was such an infirmity of proof establishing [his] misconduct as to give rise to the clear conviction that this Court could not, consistent with its duties, accept as final the finding of the [Hearing ...


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