Submitted January 6, 2016
Suspended Member of the Bar "of the District of Columbia
Court of Appeals, Bar Registration No. 464217
Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional
Chaganti, pro se.
Wallace E. Shipp, Jr., Disciplinary Counsel, and William R.
Ross, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for the Office of
Beckwith and Easterly, Associate Judges, and King, Senior
October 28, 2014, the Supreme Court of Missouri determined
that Respondent Naren Chaganti violated Missouri's Rules
of Professional Conduct by improperly communicating with a
represented party. The court suspended him indefinitely from
the practice of law, adding that it would not entertain a
petition for reinstatement for one year.
District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel now
recommends that we impose reciprocal discipline and suspend
Mr. Chaganti for one year, with reinstatement conditioned
upon proof of fitness to practice law. Mr. Chaganti
concedes that D.C. Bar R. XI § 11 (c) generally
obligates this court to impose reciprocal discipline, but he
asserts he falls under four of the five enumerated exceptions
to this rule. Concluding that none of these exceptions
applies, we suspend Mr. Chaganti for one year, with
reinstatement conditioned upon proof of fitness.
Chaganti's indefinite suspension from the Missouri bar
stemmed from actions he took in a civil suit he filed against
Lafayne Manse. Mr. Chaganti sued Mr. Manse for breach of
contract in relation to heating and cooling services Mr.
Manse was supposed to provide to Whispering Oaks Residential
Care Facility, a business Mr. Chaganti not only represented
as an attorney but also managed and owned. At various times
throughout three years of litigation, Mr. Chaganti asked to
talk directly with Mr. Manse, but in each instance, Mr.
Manse's counsel, Thomas DeVoto, refused to permit direct
contact between his client and Mr. Chaganti. At one point,
Mr. Manse tried to reach out to Mr. Chaganti directly, but
Mr. Chaganti declined to speak with him and referred him to
Mr. DeVoto. Whispering Oaks's complaint was ultimately
dismissed for failure to prosecute. Immediately after the
case was dismissed, while the parties were still at the
courthouse, Mr. Chaganti indicated that he was certain he
could resolve his dispute if only he and Mr. Manse could
speak directly. Mr. DeVoto then reminded Mr. Chaganti that he
still represented Mr. Manse in the matter, and that Mr.
Chaganti still did not have permission to communicate with
Mr. Manse. Mr. DeVoto also warned Mr. Chaganti that he would
file a complaint with the Missouri Bar if Mr. Chaganti
contacted Mr. Manse.
Chaganti ignored Mr. DeVoto's warning and, the following
day, wrote a letter to Mr. Manse. Mr. Chaganti informed Mr.
Manse that he planned to refile the lawsuit and would add as
a defendant Mr. Manse's employer, who apparently was
unaware that Mr. Manse had independently contracted to do
business with Whispering Oaks. Mr. Chaganti then advised Mr.
Manse that he could avoid further litigation by discussing
settlement, but he would have to "place a larger sum of
money to settle than [Mr. DeVoto] has offered." Mr.
Chaganti warned Mr. Manse that he "should think
seriously whether it is in your best interests to go to court
again or to close this matter at this time."
Chaganti was subsequently charged with violating two of
Missouri's Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 4-4.2
(communicating about the subject of the representation with a
person known to be represented by counsel, without consent of
counsel) and Rule 4-8.4 (d) (engaging in conduct prejudicial
to the administration of justice). Mr. Chaganti appeared pro
se before the state's Disciplinary Hearing Panel. The
Panel issued a written decision concluding that Mr. Chaganti
had violated Rules 4-4.2 and 4-8.4 (d) and recommending that
he be suspended indefinitely with permission to apply for
reinstatement after six months. The Missouri Supreme Court
adopted the Panel's recommendation of indefinite
suspension, but added that no petition for reinstatement
would be entertained for one year.
receiving notice of Mr. Chaganti's suspension in
Missouri, this court suspended Mr. Chaganti and ordered him
to show cause why reciprocal discipline should not be
imposed. In response, Mr. Chaganti argued that he should not
have been disciplined in Missouri and that this court should
not impose reciprocal discipline. Disciplinary Counsel filed
a statement recommending reciprocal discipline.
attorney barred in the District is disciplined in another
jurisdiction, this court "shall . . . impose"
identical, reciprocal discipline, see D.C. Bar Rule
XI, § 11 (c), (d), (e), unless an attorney opposing
reciprocal discipline (or urging nonidentical discipline)
shows, by clear and convincing evidence, that at least one of
§ 11 (c)'s five exceptions apply. See In re
Sibley, 990 A.2d 483, 487-88 (D.C. 2010). We have
previously noted that these are narrow exceptions, the
application of which "should be rare, " and that
"reciprocal discipline proceedings are not a forum to
reargue the foreign discipline." See id. at 488
(quoting In re Zdravkovich, 831 A.2d at 969-70).
Whether one or more ...