IN RE CHARLES P. MURDTER, RESPONDENT
January 11, 2016
Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of
Appeals. (Bar Registration No. 375905).
Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional
T. Maloney for respondent.
A. Herman, Deputy Disciplinary Counsel, with whom Wallace E.
Shipp, Jr., Disciplinary Counsel, and Jennifer P. Lyman,
Senior Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for the Office of
J. Branda, Executive Attorney, filed a statement in lieu of
brief for the Board on Professional Responsibility.
EASTERLY and MCLEESE, Associate Judges, and FARRELL, Senior
Between September 2009 and November 2010 respondent failed to
file briefs in five separate appeals in which this court had
appointed him to represent convicted defendants under the
Criminal Justice Act (CJA). He likewise failed to respond to
numerous orders directed to him by the court in connection
with the appeals. In November 2010 his appointments were
vacated, requiring the appointment of new counsel and
attendant delay in each appeal.
Hearing Committee appointed by the Board on Professional
Board) found that in each matter respondent had committed
seven violations of the District of Columbia Rules of
Professional Conduct. The Board, on review, agreed that
clear and convincing evidence supported each charged
violation, and has recommended that respondent be suspended
from the practice of law in this jurisdiction for six months,
with all but sixty days of the suspension stayed in favor of
probation on specified conditions.
sole challenge before us is to the recommended sanction.
Joined by Disciplinary Counsel, he argues that suspension is
too severe in the circumstances and that public censure is
the appropriate sanction, given the evidence of his remorse
and rehabilitation and an otherwise unblemished legal career.
The Board's report and recommendation, however, and the
findings of the Hearing Committee it incorporates, satisfy us
that the recommended suspension " falls within the wide
range of acceptable outcomes" and that we should not
reject the " strong presumption in favor of its
imposition." In re Martin, 67 A.3d 1032, 1053
(D.C. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted); see
D.C. Bar R. XI, § 9 (h)(1). We adopt the Board's
report, appended to this opinion, and take the occasion to
explain briefly our disagreement with aspects of Disciplinary
Counsel's argument for a lesser sanction.
Counsel maintains that the Board and the Hearing Committee
gave disproportionate weight to " the seriousness of
[respondent's] conduct," Martin, 67 A.3d at
1053, while undervaluing other, mitigating factors.
Specifically, Disciplinary Counsel emphasizes
respondent's demonstrated cooperation with Disciplinary
Counsel and commitment to change, further arguing that
respondent's clients did not suffer actual prejudice
because their convictions were eventually affirmed on appeal.
But, as our opinion in In re Askew, 96 A.3d 52 (D.C.
2014) (per curiam), makes clear, respondent's disregard
of client matters took on heightened significance in the
context of his appointment to represent indigent appellants:
We weigh heavily the fact that Ms. Askew was appointed to
represent [the appellant] under the Criminal Justice Act. . .
. When a [CJA] panel attorney so egregiously fails to fulfill
[her] obligation [to competently represent and zealously
advocate for . . . clients], it undermines the aim of the
[CJA], and reflects negatively on both this court and the
Id. at 60. Respondent, it scarcely needs repeating,
accepted and then largely ignored appointment in not one but
five such appeals. And this indifference to his client
obligations went hand-in-glove with disregarding multiple
related orders of this court, conduct itself " seriously
interfer[ing] with the administration of justice." D.C.
R. Prof. Conduct 8.4 (d).
respondent's derelictions went beyond a " fail[ure]
to make filings" (Brief for Disciplinary Counsel at 14)
and, even accounting for the factors shown in mitigation,
require discipline commensurate with this court's
responsibility to " protect the public and the courts,
maintain the integrity of the profession, and deter others
from engaging in similar misconduct." In re
Askew, 96 A.3d at 58. Disciplinary Counsel is
legitimately concerned with not " punishing"
are genuinely remorseful and committed to remediation, but
that concern cannot be at the expense of deterring a
lawyer's gross indifference, as exemplified here, to
duties owed both clients and the court.
Board's report and recommendation, by contrast,
appropriately balances the competing considerations. While
giving full weight to the evidence in mitigation credited by
the Hearing Committee, the Board was convinced that a lesser
sanction than actual suspension would minimize the
seriousness of respondent's combined defaults. In its
view, " if [r]espondent had not been genuinely
remorseful, cooperated with [Disciplinary Counsel] and
otherwise had a remarkable and commendable legal
career," the multiple " instances of intentional
neglect . . . might well have warranted a sanction harsher
than" it was recommending. Even without the deference