In re Robert W. Mance, III, Petitioner. A Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals
December 7, 2016
Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional
Wendell C. Robinson for petitioner.
Jennifer P. Lyman, Senior Assistant Disciplinary Counsel,
with whom Wallace E. Shipp, Jr., Disciplinary Counsel, and
Jelani C. Lowery, Senior Staff Attorney, were on the brief,
Thompson and Beckwith, Associate Judges, and Reid, Senior
Thompson, Associate Judge
January 26, 2012, this court imposed a negotiated
disciplinary sanction on petitioner Robert W. Mance III,
suspending him from the practice of law in this jurisdiction
for six months and conditioning his reinstatement upon proof
of fitness to practice law and payment of restitution to
certain clients. See In re Mance, 35 A.3d 1125, 1127
(D.C. 2012). The discipline was based on three matters,
involving complainants Leonard Garrett, Wilmer Riley, and
Sedley Randolph. As the Hearing Committee found, Mr. Mance
"admitted to multiple violations of the disciplinary
rules arising from his neglect of . . . client matters"
in those cases.
26, 2013, Mr. Mance petitioned for reinstatement. In opposing
the petition, Bar Counsel (now known as "Disciplinary
Counsel, " the term by which we hereafter refer to the
Office) filed a proffer regarding alleged misconduct
involving two additional complainants, Steven Swann and
Lawrence Hemphill. Disciplinary Counsel had previously
dismissed their complaints as part of the
negotiated-discipline agreement, or as a result of Mr.
Mance's suspension, while reserving the right to present
evidence about them should Mr. Mance seek reinstatement
Hearing Committee Number Six held a hearing on Mr.
Mance's reinstatement petition on May 2, 2014, and issued
its report and recommendation on February 22, 2016. Although
the Hearing Committee found that Mr. Mance testified
credibly, it recommended denial of his petition. There
followed this matter, Mr. Mance's petition to this court
for reinstatement. For the reasons that follow, we grant the
petition, with conditions.
[Disciplinary] Counsel contests a [reinstatement] petition, .
. . a hearing is convened after which the Hearing Committee
submits a report of its findings and recommendations to this
court for a final disposition." In re Sabo, 49
A.3d 1219, 1222 (D.C. 2012). "[T]he recommendation of
the [Hearing Committee] is only a recommendation, "
id. at 1224 (internal quotation marks omitted),
however, and even where - as here - we are presented with a
Hearing Committee report that reflects
"commend[able]" and "thorough consideration,
" id. at 1234, and a "conscientious . . .
recommendation, " "the determination of fitness to
resume the practice of law rests entirely with this
court." Id. at 1224 (internal quotation marks
omitted). In exercising our "ultimate authority to
decide whether to grant a petition for reinstatement, "
id., we "place great weight on the
recommendations of the . . . Hearing Committee, "
id. (internal quotation marks omitted), and we
accept the Hearing Committee's findings of fact
"unless they are unsupported by substantial evidence of
record." In re Mba-Jonas, 118 A.3d 785, 787
(D.C. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).
petitioner seeking reinstatement bears the burden of proof to
"demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he .
. . is fit to resume the practice of law." In re
Sabo, 49 A.3d at 1223 (internal quotation marks
omitted); see also D.C. Bar R. XI, § 16
(d)(1). Proof of fitness requires a demonstration
'"(a) [t]hat the attorney has the moral
qualifications, competency, and learning in law required for
readmission; and (b) [t]hat the resumption of the practice of
law by the attorney will not be detrimental to the integrity
and standing of the Bar, or to the administration of justice,
or subversive to the public interest."' In re
Daniel, 135 A.3d 796, 797 n.2 (D.C. 2016) (quoting D.C.
Bar R. XI, § 16 (d)(1)(a)-(b)). The following factors
are to be considered in a determination of whether the
attorney has made the required showing:
(1) the nature and circumstances of the misconduct for which
the attorney was disciplined; (2) whether the attorney
recognizes the seriousness of the misconduct; (3) the
attorney's conduct since discipline was imposed,
including the steps taken to remedy past wrongs and prevent
future ones; (4) the attorney's present character; and
(5) the attorney's present qualifications and competence
to practice law.
In re Roundtree, 503 A.2d 1215, 1217 (D.C. 1985).
begin our analysis by briefly describing "the nature and
circumstances of the misconduct for which the attorney was
disciplined, " id., and the additional
misconduct the Hearing Committee considered. In the Garrett
matter (Bar Docket No. 2009-D247), Mr. Mance, who was
representing Mr. Garrett in a civil suit, failed to file a
brief on Mr. Garrett's behalf or to ask for an extension
of time, which resulted in the dismissal of the case for want
of prosecution. See In re Mance, 35 A.3d at 1126.
After Mr. Garrett filed a complaint with Disciplinary
Counsel, Mr. Garrett met with Mr. Mance, at Mr. Mance's
request, and entered into a written agreement whereby Mr.
Mance agreed to pay him $4, 500 (the retainer he had paid)
plus an additional $15, 000 as settlement of "any issues
or differences between them." Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted). Mr. Mance did not advise Mr.
Garrett to obtain the advice of outside counsel and failed to
provide sufficient information for Mr. Garrett to provide
informed consent. Id. Thereafter, Mr. Mance made two
payments to Mr. Garrett that amounted to $900 and then ceased
payment (until, as discussed below, after he had petitioned
for reinstatement). Id.
Riley matter (Bar Docket No. 2009-D369) involved Mr.
Mance's failure, despite a court order, to produce
documents (which Mr. Riley had turned over to him) in
response to a request for production of documents and an
order compelling production. Id. The omission led
the court to impose sanctions, which included an order
precluding Mr. Riley from testifying at trial, presenting
exhibits at trial, and presenting evidence as to damages.
Id. Mr. Mance did not file a motion to vacate or
reconsider the court's order, and instead, after failing
to respond to opposing counsel's motion to dismiss or in
the alternative for summary judgment, represented Mr. Riley
on appeal. Id. Mr. Mance did not advise Mr. Riley to
seek outside counsel even though the issue on appeal involved
his own failure to act on Mr. Riley's behalf.
Randolph matter (Bar Docket No. 2010-D025), after
representing Mr. Randolph in his criminal case, Mr. Mance
failed to respond to requests by Mr. Randolph for his case
materials, forwarding the file only after Disciplinary
Counsel got involved. Id. In addition, Mr.
Mance's first attempt at forwarding the file failed
because he had failed to ascertain the rules of mailing
packages to the federal correctional center where Mr.
Randolph was incarcerated.
the Swann matter (Bar Docket No. 2011-D219),
Disciplinary Counsel proffered that Mr. Mance filed on Mr.
Swann's behalf a petition for review of an adverse
decision by the Office of Employee Appeals but failed to name
and serve the proper respondent, timely file the petition,
and properly file an opposition to a motion to dismiss. Mr.
Mance also noted an appeal ...