IN RE GREGORY L. LATTIMER, RESPONDENT. A Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration Number 371926)
November 4, 2019.
Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional
Responsibility. (Board Docket Numbers 11-BD-085 and
15-BD-070). (BDN170-09, BDN319-09, BDN401-10, and BDN145-14).
Gregory L. Lattimer, Pro se.
Hamilton P. Fox, III, Disciplinary Counsel, with whom
Jennifer P. Lyman, Senior Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, was
on the brief, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
EASTERLY and MCLEESE, Associate Judges, and OKUN, Associate
Judge of the Superior Court of the District of
report consolidating disciplinary cases heard by two Hearing
Committees, the Board on Professional Responsibility (the
" Board" ) concluded that respondent, Gregory L.
Lattimer, committed multiple violations of the District of
Columbia Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4(a) (communication
with client) in the course of representing two clients in the
District of Columbia, as well as violations of the Virginia
Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 (competence), 1.3(a)
(diligence), and 8.4(c) (misconduct involving dishonesty,
fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), in the course of
representing a third client in Virginia. The Board
recommended Mr. Lattimer be suspended for sixty days, with
the requirement that Mr. Lattimer pay restitution with
interest to the family of one of his clients and provide
proof of payment prior to reinstatement. We agree with the
Board's conclusions that Mr. Lattimer's conduct
violated the District of Columbia and Virginia Rules and
adopt the Board's recommendation as to sanction, except
that we additionally impose a fitness requirement.
I. Standard of Review
disciplinary case, Disciplinary Counsel must establish a rule
violation by clear and convincing evidence. In re
Tun, 195 A.3d 65, 72 (D.C. 2018). This court accepts the
factual findings of the Board " if they are supported by
substantial evidence in the record."  In re
Howes, 52 A.3d 1, 12 (D.C. 2012); see also D.C.
Bar R. XI, § 9(h)(1).
We review the Board's conclusions of law de novo. In
re Saint-Louis, 147 A.3d 1135, 1147 (D.C. 2016).
A. District of Columbia Rule 1.4(a)
comply with District of Columbia Rule 1.4(a), a lawyer must
" keep a client reasonably informed about the status of
a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for
information." Comment two further provides that "
[a] client is entitled to whatever information the client
wishes about all aspects of the subject matter of the
representation unless the client expressly consents not to
have certain information passed on" and that "
[t]he lawyer must initiate and maintain the consultative and
decision-making process if the client does not do so and must
ensure that the ongoing process is thorough and
complete." Failing to return a client's calls or
respond to their questions violates this rule. See
In re Bernstein, 707 A.2d 371, 376 (D.C. 1998)
(holding an attorney's failure to return his client's
telephone calls and promptly answer other requests for
information violated Rule 1.4(a)); In re Dietz, 633
A.2d 850, 850 (D.C. 1993) (same). A failure to communicate
with a client when the client is incarcerated and thus has
limited access to the outside world is particularly
concerning. See, e.g., In re Askew, 96 A.3d
52, 59 (D.C. 2014) (per curiam); see also In re
Fitzgerald, 982 A.2d 743, 751-52 (D.C. 2009). Mr.
Lattimer was charged with violating Rule 1.4(a) with respect
to two clients, Roderick Strange and Toby Cooper.
1. Roderick Strange
Hearing Committee, and the Board in turn, made the following
findings with respect to Mr. Lattimer's representation of
Roderick Strange: Mr. Strange's mother retained Mr.
Lattimer to represent her son in his criminal appeal in March
2008. Mr. Lattimer met with Mr. Strange just once in person,
at the D.C. Jail, in March. Thereafter, Mr. Strange was
transferred to a federal prison in South Carolina. While he
was in transit and after he arrived at his destination, Mr.
Strange made a number of collect calls to Mr. Lattimer's
office. None of his calls was accepted; meanwhile, Mr.
Lattimer did not call, write, or visit Mr. Strange. After six
months of no contact, Mr. Strange paid for a long distance
call to Mr. Lattimer's office in October 2008. A month
later, Mr. Lattimer sent Mr. Strange a letter informing him
that he had an " outstanding balance" that would
need to be paid if Mr. Strange still wanted him to file a
brief. That was their final communication. Mr. Lattimer never
entered an appearance in the case and never filed any
documents with the Court of Appeals, see D.C. App.
R. 42(a), so an attorney appointed by the court, Ian
Williams, ultimately litigated Mr. Strange's
Regarding the actual extent of his contact with Mr. Strange,
Mr. Lattimer vaguely asserts that " [t]he facts about
communication are at odds," and refers us to his
exceptions to the Hearing Committee Report, which he "
incorporate[s] as if fully set forth" in his brief. In
an appeal to this court, it is Mr. Lattimer's obligation
to set forth his argument in his brief, and it is
not enough for him to " perfunctor[ily]" "
advert" to issues he raised in a different forum at an
earlier stage of the litigation. Comford v. United
States, 947 A.2d 1181, 1188 (D.C. 2008) (internal
quotation marks omitted). In any event, we reiterate that in
disciplinary cases, factfinding and, in particular,
credibility determinations are delegated to the Hearing
Committee and, if it has taken additional evidence, to the
Board. See In re Asher, 772 A.2d 1161, 1172
(D.C. 2001). Our task is to confirm that these findings are
supported by substantial evidence. In re Howes, 52
A.3d at 12. The record submitted to the Hearing Committee in
this case provides the requisite foundation for the finding
Mr. Lattimer had no contact with Mr. Strange for more than
six months, despite Mr. Strange's numerous attempts to
contact Mr. Lattimer to learn the status of his
case. Mr. Lattimer's assertion that
" [t]here was no evidence in the record
indicating that information was sought and it was not
provided" is unsupported by the record.
Lattimer argues in the alternative that he had no legal
obligation under Rule 1.4(a) to keep Mr. Strange reasonably
informed or to comply with reasonable requests for
information because Mr. Strange's testimony established
that " he had no expectation of receiving information
from [Mr. Lattimer]." Mr. Lattimer asserts that Mr.
Strange testified that he made a " decision . . . in the
summer of 2008" and " considered Mr. Williams his
attorney and not [Mr. Lattimer]." But this puts words in
Mr. Strange's mouth that he did not say. Instead, Mr.
Strange explained that he reached out to Mr. Williams because
he and his family had been unable to make contact with Mr.
Lattimer and, beginning in late summer, Mr. Strange "
considered" Mr. Williams to be his lawyer because "
he was the one that was doing everything" in Mr.
Strange's case. Although Mr. Strange acknowledged he was
looking to Mr. Williams for assistance, he never testified
that he " decided" Mr. Lattimer, the attorney his
mother had retained for him in March, was not his
lawyer. To the contrary, the fact that Mr. Strange paid for a
long distance call to Mr. Lattimer from prison in October
2008 indicates that Mr. Strange was still looking to Mr.
Lattimer to provide him with information about his appeal up
until that time.
conclude that Mr. Lattimer's failure to communicate with
Mr. Strange for the six months after he was retained violated
District of Columbia Rule 1.4(a). See In re
Askew, 96 A.3d at 59; In re Fitzgerald, 982
A.2d at 751-52.
2. Toby Cooper
Hearing Committee, and the Board in turn, made the following
findings regarding Mr. Lattimer's representation of Toby
Cooper: Ms. Cooper retained Mr. Lattimer on June 18, 2010, to
represent her in a federal civil rights lawsuit. Over the
next three months (until she terminated his representation),
Ms. Cooper had only limited contact with Mr. Lattimer, even
though he had led her to believe her case needed to move
quickly and even though she reached out to him in different
ways, repeatedly. During the month of July, Ms. Cooper sent
Mr. Lattimer two packages of case-related documents in the
mail, and then, to get updates on her case,
emailed him four times and called him seven times. Mr.
Lattimer never called her back. He sent Ms. Cooper one email
in early July informing her he had not yet filed a complaint.
Later that month he sent Ms. Cooper two more emails—
apparently prompted by a concern that Ms. Cooper was
criticizing him to colleagues for being
non-communicative— in which he defended his approach to
client contact. Ms. Cooper again attempted to connect with
Mr. Lattimer in August via email and in September via phone,
but without success. On September 22, 2010, Ms. Cooper
emailed Mr. Lattimer to discharge him as her attorney and to
request a refund of her retainer.
Lattimer disputes Ms. Cooper's narrative of her many
unsuccessful efforts to connect with him, again effectively
asking us to reassess the Hearing Committee's credibility
determinations. Even if we could, but see
supra page 6, we would decline to do so. The Hearing
Committee heard firsthand from Ms. Cooper, whose testimony
was corroborated by phone logs and printouts of the emails,
which were entered into the record and never challenged by
Mr. Lattimer. In short, there was ample, unimpeached evidence
to support the Hearing Committee's determination that Mr.
Lattimer failed to adequately communicate with Ms. Cooper.
Lattimer also argues that he had no obligation under the
Rules to contact Ms. Cooper when " he had no update on
her case for her," and that the Rules required him to
communicate with Ms. Cooper only when it was "
necessary, required, and warranted." We cannot agree.
Ignoring or electing not to respond to Ms. Cooper when she
reached out to learn the status of her case was not an
option. Rather, to keep Ms. Cooper " reasonably
informed" per District of Columbia Rule 1.4(a), Mr.
Lattimer was ...