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In re Nosal

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

April 2, 2015

IN RE CHESTER W. NOSAL, RESPONDENT

Argued December 4, 2014

A Suspended Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. (Bar Registration No. 167668). (BDN 57-14).

David U. Fierst was on the brief for respondent.

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

Before FISHER and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges, and FERREN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 920

Per Curiam

By order of the Supreme Court of Illinois, respondent Chester Nosal was suspended from the practice of law for two years and until further order of the court for numerous acts of professional misconduct. Upon notice of respondent's suspension, this court notified and temporarily suspended respondent from the practice of law in the District of Columbia, pending proceedings to determine whether to impose reciprocal discipline, with instructions for respondent to show cause for why we should not do so, pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (d). Respondent requests a de novo evidentiary hearing to demonstrate that the Illinois suspension was not supported by the evidence. Bar Counsel recommends identical reciprocal discipline of two years suspension with a fitness requirement. Because " reciprocal discipline proceedings are not a forum to reargue the foreign discipline," In re Zdravkovich, 831 A.2d 964, 969 (D.C. 2003), we adopt Bar Counsel's recommendation.

Respondent's violations of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (" Illinois Rules" ) stem from his involvement with Capacitive Deionization Technology Systems, Inc. (" CDT" ), a Texas company. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (" Commission" ) found that an attorney-client relationship existed between respondent and CDT from 1999 through 2007, and that during this time respondent engaged in various acts of self-dealing without disclosing conflicts of interest or obtaining informed consent, including acting as a lender for multiple high-interest loans and converting notes given in lieu of outstanding attorney fees to stock in CDT. Ultimately, respondent's transactions gave him an ownership interest in CDT between eleven and fifteen percent. Additionally, the Commission found that respondent made false statements to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas and to the Commission regarding the time period in which he represented CDT. Finally, the Commission found that respondent knowingly failed to cooperate with its investigation and ignored a subpoena requiring respondent to appear before it. In reaching its decision to suspend respondent, the Commission considered documentary evidence of respondent's agreements with CDT, testimony from a CDT board member and its CEO, and respondent's filing characterized as a " Motion to Strike and Dismiss," in which he contested the facts at issue.

Respondent declined to participate in the Illinois proceedings, either in person or through counsel. Instead, respondent repeatedly contested the Commission's jurisdiction through various filings, announcing that he " never agreed to perpetual subjugation to the jurisdiction of the Illinois Supreme Court nor the bloated Commission" and " will not be participating in the

Page 921

Commission's proceedings" and " will not file a brief," and the Commission repeatedly informed respondent that its jurisdiction was proper. As the proceedings commenced in his absence, respondent threatened to take action against the Commission in federal court and filed a " Notice to Cease and Desist," but did not prevent the Commission from holding a hearing and issuing its final report recommending respondent's suspension. Respondent now requests an evidentiary hearing in the District of Columbia, contending that reciprocal discipline would be unfair because the Commission's decision was based on a one-sided record, due to respondent's absence from the proceedings. Respondent contends that he was absent because he reasonably believed, in good faith, that the Commission had no jurisdiction over him, as he had not practiced in Illinois for several decades, had retired from the Illinois bar,[1] and the conduct at issue had no connection with Illinois.

We have adopted a " rigid standard" in reciprocal discipline cases, " presumptively impos[ing] identical reciprocal discipline, unless the attorney demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the case falls within one of five specified exceptions articulated in [D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 11 (c)]." In re Zdravkovich, supra, 831 A.2d at 968. These five exceptions are:

(1) The procedure elsewhere was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a ...

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