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A former in-house attorney for a publishing giant who used company funds to cover rent for his Rhode Island summer home won’t be practicing in Washington anytime soon. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals stopped short of disbarring former Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. attorney Oscar W. Weekes Jr., a sanction that the Bar of the District of Columbia had recommended. But the court rejected Weekes’ argument that his suspension should have begun in 2005. Instead, the court issued a five-year suspension effective on June 24, 2008. The Thursday decision by a three-judge panel was a reciprocal disciplinary action from a 2007 sanction in Massachusetts, where Weekes was suspended from practice indefinitely. Weekes worked for the education media publisher as assistant general counsel in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2002, according to the written opinion. On three different occasions in 2001 he had checks cut to fictitious vendors. One check for $3,400 he used to pay his share of the rent for a Rhode Island summer home. Another went to cover rent on his apartment. Weekes argued in the disciplinary action that he had filed an affidavit in 2005 that provided adequate notice in Washington of his suspension from practice in Massachusetts. The affidavit, he asserted, provided the start date for his suspension. The panel determined that Weekes’ affidavit was insufficient, specifically because it failed to mention his other bar admissions, including New York. He also failed to specify that he did not represent clients while suspended. As a result, the panel found that the 2005 affidavit was defective and set the start date in 2008, when Weekes filed an affidavit meeting core legal requirements. Weekes could not be reached for comment. A professional networking Web site for Oscar “OW” Weekes said that he was an associate at Nixon Peabody from November 1993 to January 1995. The law firm did not confirm his employment. Weekes’ biography on the site also said that he was a lawyer and consultant with The Pingham Group in Washington. A telephone listing was not available for The Pingham Group. (He does not work for the law firm Bingham McCutchen or any of its affiliates.) The court rejected the bar counsel’s call for disbarment. The panel reasoned that disbarment would be excessive, since Weekes did not set up bank accounts using the publisher’s funds. It acknowledged that he had repaid the money to the company. The decision, written by Judge Inez Smith Reid, listed Marlon C. Griffith in Washington as the attorney for Weekes. Griffith did not return a telephone call seeking comment. The other judges on the panel were Noel Anketell Kramer and John M. Ferren.

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