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In re Katz

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

December 22, 2016

In re Gerald I. Katz, Respondent. A Suspended Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No. 237925)

          Submitted April 22, 2016

         On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (BDN-D143-15)

          Peter F. Axelrad for respondent.

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

          Before Thompson and Easterly, Associate Judges, and Reid, Senior Judge.

          Per Curiam

         The Maryland Court of Appeals disbarred respondent Gerald Katz after it determined that he had violated Maryland's Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct by willfully failing to timely file and pay his federal income taxes for over a decade. Att'y Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Katz, 116 A.3d 999, 1007, 1013 (Md. 2015). Because D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 11 (c) establishes a default rule that this court should impose the same discipline as the original disciplining jurisdiction, this court ordered Mr. Katz to show cause why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed. Mr. Katz bears the burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that an exception to the default rule applies. We conclude that Mr. Katz has failed to carry his burden and order that he be disbarred.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         The Maryland Court of Appeals directed a trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing on the Maryland Bar Counsel's Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action against Mr. Katz. Katz, 116 A.3d at 1002. Thereafter the Maryland Court of Appeals adopted the trial court's findings (which Mr. Katz had not disputed, id. at 1005) that Mr. Katz filed his federal tax returns late for "tax years 1996 through 2005 and 2007 through 2010, and 'grossly underpaid' his income taxes for tax years 1996 through 2010, " in the amount of $2, 503, 757.[1] Id. at 1002-03.

         Based on these findings, the Maryland Court of Appeals determined that Mr. Katz had violated Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct (MLRPC) 8.4 (a)-(d) (2015).[2] Specifically, the Maryland court held that Mr. Katz's "repeated, willful failure to pay his federal income taxes and timely file his federal income tax returns represent[ed] dishonest conduct that violated MLRPC 8.4 (c), " Katz, 116 A.3d at 1007, as well as criminal conduct "reflect[ing] adversely on his fitness to practice law" that violated MLRPC 8.4 (b), id. at 1007-09, and conduct "prejudicial to the administration of justice" under MLPRC 8.4 (d), id. at 1010. The Maryland court further concluded that "because [Mr.] Katz violated MLRPC 8.4 (b), (c), and (d), he also violated MLRPC 8.4 (a)." Id.

         In considering the appropriate sanction for these Rule violations, the Maryland Court of Appeals weighed the severity of Mr. Katz's misconduct-the failure "to timely file his income tax returns for 14 years, " and the underpayment of "his taxes for 15 years to the tune of approximately $2.5 million"-noting that it was "far more egregious than that of other attorneys [the Maryland court] ha[d] suspended for failure to file and pay their income taxes." Id. at 1011. The court also noted that a "critical consideration" was Mr. Katz's "intentional dishonest conduct for personal gain, " again contrasting cases in which the court had determined that the lesser sanction of suspension was appropriate because "the willful failure to file [wa]s not the result of fraudulent or dishonest intent." Id. at 1012. "In light of the severity of [Mr.] Katz's intentional dishonest conduct, and finding no mitigating factors, " the Maryland court "concluded that disbarment [wa]s the appropriate sanction." Id. at 1013.

         II. Whether Reciprocal Discipline Should Be Imposed

         D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 11 (c) establishes a default rule that this court should impose the same discipline as the original disciplining jurisdiction. See In re Chaganti, 144 A.3d 20, 23 n.3 (D.C. 2016). An attorney may escape reciprocal discipline only if he can show, 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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