Submitted: November 13, 2014.
A Suspended Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No. 428285). On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (BDN-518-09).
Wallace E. Shipp, Jr., Bar Counsel, Jennifer P. Lyman, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel, and Jelani C. Lowery, Senior Staff Attorney, were on the brief for the Office of Bar Counsel.
Before THOMPSON and MCLEESE, Associate Judges, and NEWMAN, Senior Judge.
The Board on Professional Responsibility has concluded that respondent Gilbert Baber violated numerous Rules of Professional Conduct during his representation of a client in a probate matter. The Board recommends that Mr. Baber be suspended from the practice of law for a period of three years and be required to prove fitness and to pay restitution as conditions of reinstatement. The Office of Bar Counsel contends that Mr. Baber's conduct constituted flagrant dishonesty requiring disbarment. We conclude that Mr. Baber should be disbarred.
The Board's report and recommendation rests on the following findings, which are undisputed in this court.
In April 2007, Darlene Gripper retained Mr. Baber to represent her in the probate of her mother's estate. Ms. Gripper and Mr. Baber signed a retainer letter providing that Mr. Baber was to charge Ms. Gripper $125 per hour, plus expenses. On June 14, 2007, Mr. Baber filed a petition for unsupervised probate, naming Ms. Gripper as the personal representative of her mother's estate. On June 19, 2007, the probate court appointed Ms. Gripper as the personal representative of her mother's estate.
As personal representative, Ms. Gripper was required to give notice of the opening of the estate to her two brothers, as " interested persons," within twenty days of her appointment, i.e., by July 9, 2007. Ms. Gripper's brothers did not receive notice until July 30, 2007, approximately three weeks after the required date. Ms. Gripper was also required to publish notice of the opening of the estate within three months of her appointment and to verify to the court that she had done so. On September 10, 2007, the probate court sent a
notice to Mr. Baber and Ms. Gripper, reminding them that they needed to file a verification with the court by September 24, 2007. Despite receiving the reminder, Mr. Baber did not send the verification form to Ms. Gripper to sign until September 27, 2007. Ms. Gripper sent the signed forms back to Mr. Baber the next day, but Mr. Baber did not file them until October 2, 2007.
Additionally, as personal representative, Ms. Gripper was required to complete an inventory of the estate within three months of her June 19, 2007, appointment. Mr. Baber did not provide Ms. Gripper with the necessary forms until October 9, 2007, well after the deadline. He also erroneously advised Ms. Gripper on how to properly value the estate and refused to correct the valuation despite Ms. Gripper's request that he do so.
The probate court set a hearing for October 30, 2007, to determine whether it should remove Ms. Gripper as personal representative. At the hearing, Mr. Baber told the court that Ms. Gripper had missed deadlines because the estate had limited funds, which was not true. Mr. Baber billed Ms. Gripper for the time he spent preparing for and participating in the ...