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A former Holland & Knight partner who violated a slew of disciplinary rules while hooked on cocaine will get a three-year suspension if the D.C. Court of Appeals adopts a recommendation by the D.C. ethics board. The report, issued Dec. 31 by the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility, rejected a recommendation for the disbarment of attorney Theodore Silva Jr. made last year by a hearing committee in the disciplinary matter. Instead, the board called for Silva’s suspension, finding that although he violated several ethics rules, he did not commit a felony pertaining to phony notarizations. The D.C. Court of Appeals ultimately must decide Silva’s fate, although there is a presumption that it will adopt the board’s recommendation. The board’s report to the court stems from Silva’s representation of a client while he was a partner at Holland & Knight in 2005. The matter at issue was a commercial real estate deal involving an easement in northwest Washington, D.C. Silva, who admitted to the facts of the incident, failed to complete an easement relocation agreement and then lied to his client and another partner about the status of the agreement. He falsely signed the names of the representatives of adjacent landowners on the agreement and used fictitious notaries. He attributed his conduct to stress, cocaine use and drinking. The incident cost the firm about $150,000 in expenses plus 50 hours’ work from another Holland & Knight partner who had to rectify the problems. Silva joined the firm in 1994 and became partner in 1995. He was fired from the firm in 2006 following the incident. Silva admitted to violating four disciplinary rules, including dishonesty toward a client and misrepresentation. A D.C. disciplinary hearing committee, in a report issued in January 2008, found that he also violated several other disciplinary rules and committed the crime of forgery. The board agreed with those findings. But it did not determine, as the hearing committee did, that Silva violated D.C. criminal law by using fictitious notaries on the easement agreement. Specifically, the board found that since Silva did not impersonate a notary or represent to others that he was a notary, he did not run afoul of the law. It further determined that although the record was clear that Silva was addicted to cocaine, his addiction did not mitigate his conduct. In addition to the three-year suspension, the board recommended requiring that Silva demonstrate his fitness to practice law at the end of his suspension. The board’s report also called for a public censure against Silva to be published on the D.C. Bar Web site, as reciprocal discipline for a public censure he received in Virginia. Silva was censured there for failing to report his 2002 conviction for cocaine possession to Virginia bar authorities. Silva could not be reached for comment. Alexandria, Va., attorney Timothy Battle, who had represented Silva, was not immediately available. Holland & Knight did not respond to requests for comment. Attorney Theodore Frank, a member of the board who wrote the report and recommendation, declined to comment. John Quinn Jr., chairman of hearing committee that recommended disbarment, did not return a phone call.

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