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In re Peters

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

November 23, 2016

In re Kristan L. Peters, Respondent.

          Submitted January 6, 2016

         A Suspended Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No. 415989)

         On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (BDN-113-15)

          Kristan Peters, pro se.

          Wallace E. Shipp, Jr., Disciplinary Counsel, and William R. Ross, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

          Before Beckwith and Easterly, Associate Judges, and King, Senior Judge.

          Per Curiam

         On April 10, 2013, after finding that respondent Kristan Peters had violated several professional rules, the Committee on Grievances of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY Committee) suspended Ms. Peters from the practice of law for seven years. The District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel now recommends that we impose reciprocal discipline and suspend Ms. Peters for five years, with reinstatement conditioned upon proof of fitness to practice law. Although D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (e) generally requires this court to impose reciprocal discipline, Ms. Peters argues that all five enumerated exceptions to this rule apply in her case. Concluding that only one exception applies-namely, that Ms. Peters would be subject to substantially different discipline in this jurisdiction-we suspend Ms. Peters from the practice of law in the District of Columbia for a period of three years, nunc pro tunc to July 2, 2015, [1] with reinstatement predicated on a finding of fitness. See D.C. Bar R. XI, §§ 3 (a)(2), 11 (e), 14 (h), 16 (a).

         I. Background

         At the time the misconduct at issue in this case occurred, Ms. Peters was working for the law firm Dorsey & Whitney, LLP (Dorsey).[2] On behalf of its client Wolters Kluwer Financial Services, Inc. (Wolters), Dorsey sued four former Wolters employees in the Southern District of New York for allegedly divulging proprietary information to their new employer. Discovery was conducted under a confidentiality order providing that certain materials "shall not be used [in] any other litigation proceeding." After concerns were raised over personal jurisdiction, Dorsey dismissed the suit in New York and refiled it in Massachusetts. Despite court orders from the judge in New York, Ms. Peters, the partner in charge, delayed returning confidential discovery material (including deposition transcripts) and attached 115 pages of that material to a motion for temporary injunctive relief filed in the Massachusetts case.

         The judge presiding over the New York case sanctioned Ms. Peters and forwarded a copy of the decision to the SDNY Committee, which suspended her for seven years backdated to April 10, 2008, the date she had first been temporarily suspended pending process. Wolters Kluwer Fin. Servs. Inc. v. Scivantage, 525 F.Supp.2d 448, 541, 550-51 (S.D.N.Y. 2007), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 564 F.3d 110 (2d Cir. 2009).[3]

         Because we see no basis for disturbing the SDNY Committee's findings, see part II, infra, we accept the facts as set out in the SDNY Committee's order and in a 118-page report written by a federal magistrate judge and adopted by the Committee. See D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (c); In re Peters, 941 F.Supp.2d at 360-62, 366.

         The magistrate's report canvasses the record and supports the conclusion that Ms. Peters: (1) copied and ordered additional deposition transcripts in violation of court orders for use in the new but related action in Massachusetts and thus knowingly violated a confidentiality order entered by the presiding judge in the first case; and (2) instructed a first-year associate at Dorsey to add markings to deposition transcripts in an attempt to bring them under the protection of the attorney work-product privilege and exempt them from the presiding judge's order that all discovery be returned, and thereafter misled the court about what she had done.

         II. Imposition of Reciprocal Discipline

         In the District of Columbia, an attorney suspended or disbarred in another jurisdiction will have identical reciprocal discipline imposed on her unless she demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that:

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

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