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In re Schwartz

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

December 19, 2019

IN RE Frederic W. SCHWARTZ, Jr., Respondent. A Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No. 197137)

         Argued January 22, 2019

Page 926

          On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (Bar Docket No. 2009-D148), (Board Docket No. 13-BD-052).

          Frederic W. Schwartz, Jr., pro se.

         Jelani C. Lowery, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, with whom Hamilton P. Fox, III, Disciplinary Counsel, and Hendrik deBoer, Senior Staff Attorney, were on the brief, for the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel.

         Before Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, McLeese, Associate Judge, and Ruiz, Senior Judge.

          OPINION

          Per Curiam

          The Board on Professional Responsibility (the "Board") recommends that respondent Frederic W. Schwartz, Jr. be informally admonished for violating Rule of

Page 927

Professional Conduct 1.4(a) stemming from his failure to keep his client, Dr. Jun Chen, "reasonably informed about the status of his case" for a year and a half. Mr. Schwartz concedes this violation. Before us is the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel’s ("Disciplinary Counsel") challenge to the Board’s refusal to increase Mr. Schwartz’s sanction from an informal admonition to a more severe sanction of a public censure. We adopt the Board’s recommendation of an informal admonition.

          I. Factual and Procedural Background

          In August 2005, Dr. Chen, a Chinese national and post-doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, contacted Mr. Schwartz to apply for lawful permanent resident status through an employment-based petition. After speaking with Mr. Schwartz’s Mandarin-speaking assistant, June Miyata, Dr. Chen executed a retainer agreement sent to him by Ms. Miyata, with the understanding that Mr. Schwartz was to pursue an employment-based adjustment of Dr. Chen’s immigration status through a national interest waiver. Mr. Schwartz admitted that he did not directly communicate with Dr. Chen prior to Dr. Chen executing the retainer agreement and also did not inform Dr. Chen that his case would be behind several other clients’ matters. For the next six months, Dr. Chen communicated exclusively with Ms. Miyata and sent her documents that she requested for his case. In April 2006, Dr. Chen met Mr. Schwartz in person for the first and only time at Mr. Schwartz’s office to turn over several documents needed for his immigration case. For the rest of that year, Mr. Schwartz did not contact Dr. Chen about the status of his case.

         In January 2007, Ms. Miyata’s own work permit was denied and she returned to China. Mr. Schwartz did not hire a replacement and, according to Mr. Schwartz, "there came a time when the system essentially crumbled" which led to Mr. Schwartz neglecting to contact Dr. Chen for three to four months, as he "could not find [Dr. Chen’s] file." Despite delays in the case due to deficiencies in the documents Dr. Chen provided, Mr. Schwartz did not contact Dr. Chen to remedy those deficiencies.[1]

          From April 2006 to March 2007, Dr. Chen inquired twice by e-mail requesting an update on his case. Following the first e-mail, Mr. Schwartz briefly replied: "I am working on an emergency deportation case and will reply in several days." In the following five weeks, Dr. Chen sent Mr. Schwartz seven follow-up e-mails expressing his frustration with the lack of any response from Mr. ...


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