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For hitting his son with his truck, Robert Gailliard was hit with a suspension from practicing law in his home state. Now, the District of Columbia wants to do the same. Last month the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility recommended that Gailliard, who hasn’t practiced in the District in almost 20 years, be suspended from practicing law for three years. In its unanimous decision, the board noted that it may have sought more severe punishment but felt “there was no indication that Respondent would appear for a hearing to determine if his crime involved moral turpitude.” In August 2004, Gailliard, a solo practitioner in Charleston, S.C., got into an argument with his teenage son after he refused to cut the front lawn of a nearby church. The exchange devolved into a physical altercation, which culminated in Gailliard’s running over his son with his truck. Gailliard was convicted of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature by the Court of General Sessions in Charleston County. He was sentenced to four years in jail, which was stayed in favor of three years’ probation, along with the requirement that he undergo anger management counseling. The D.C. Office of Bar Counsel was unable to find court testimony describing the altercation and Gailliard’s son’s injuries or obtain court documents from South Carolina. But Bar Counsel did have Gailliard’s pleading before the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which proved enough for the board to recommend a three-year suspension. “While there is no excuse for my behavior, I believe that it should be viewed in the context of a father trying to cope with a rebellious teenage son,” said Gailliard in his affidavit to Disciplinary Counsel. Gailliard went on to say that he didn’t think he had hit his son, though he accepted the testimony of a witness who said the car hit the teenager. “I believe that he fell and his injuries were caused from that fall,” said Gailliard. “However, there is no question that what I was doing was dangerous, put my child’s safety, if not his life, at risk, and I very much regret it.” The board saw the conviction and testimony as more than enough evidence to impose an identical reciprocal discipline. The board also noted that its ruling had an eye toward sparing District resources — Gailliard hasn’t paid bar dues in almost 20 years, and the board had a presupposition that he wasn’t interested in practicing again in the District. The board added that if Gailliard were to seek reinstatement, it would then consider whether this crime involved moral turpitude, which, if answered affirmatively, would result in automatic disbarment. Gailliard’s case lends credence to the fact that in the District, the actions of a lawyer as a private citizen can nonetheless jeopardize his legal career. Last month the D.C. Board recommended that Peter H. Jacoby be suspended from practicing law for 60 days after he was convicted of assaulting his wife. “Lawyers sometimes forget that any actions they take, even if it doesn’t involve their practice, can affect their standing with the Bar,” says D.C. Bar Counsel Wallace “Gene” Shipp Jr. Gailliard didn’t bother to let D.C. Bar Counsel know of his criminal conviction or of the discipline doled out by South Carolina Disciplinary Counsel. Instead, D.C. Bar Counsel learned of Gailliard’s South Carolina discipline from the American Bar Association’s National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank in October 2006.
OTHER RECENT D.C. ETHICS CASES INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING: • While there’s much ado about the political ramifications of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.’s commuted jail sentence, there’s been less talk about the ramifications regarding Libby’s pending disbarment. Maybe that’s because it’s still pending. Libby’s days as a lawyer in the District remain numbered. President George W. Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence doesn’t remove the conviction. And that’s what Libby’s disbarment rests on. “He’s still guilty of serious crimes which result in an automatic disbarment,” says William Ross, assistant bar counsel. “Unless he’s pardoned, we’re going ahead as before. Now, if he were pardoned, the current proceeding would go away. But there still might be enough clear and convincing evidence of wrongdoing that we’d have to start over with a new proceeding.” In May the Board on Professional Responsibility unanimously recommended to the D.C. Court of Appeals that the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney be disbarred because of his convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude. Libby was convicted in March on two counts of perjury, one count of obstructing justice in a grand jury investigation, and one count of making false statements to federal investigators in the investigation relating to the outing of former CIA employee Valerie Plame. • In what might be a Penalty Box record for professional negligence, Lloyd Ukwu was suspended June 21 by the D.C. Court of Appeals for one year after running roughshod over the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct while representing five clients seeking political asylum before the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The court ruled that Ukwu’s reinstatement was conditional on meeting fitness requirements and paying restitution to three of the five clients (the other two were pro bono clients). The court found that Ukwu, an immigration attorney with Law Group International, had engaged in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation, which kept his clients from winning their asylum cases. • In May, the D.C. Court of Appeals suspended Jeffrey Schwartz from practicing law for 18 months. It was identical to the punishment Schwartz received from the Georgia Supreme Court after he admitted to deleting voice mail messages left at his old law firm after he departed. Schwartz didn’t contest the court’s suspension. Schwartz, who’s now practicing at Atlanta’s Lawrence E. Newlin & Associates, admitted that between the fall of 2001 and March 2003 he accessed, listened to, and randomly deleted messages left on the voice mail system of his former employer, an Atlanta-based law firm. Schwartz was fired by the firm in August 2001. Neither the Georgia court order nor papers filed in the D.C. ethics case explained the contents of the voice mail messages. The Georgia Court noted that after Schwartz was confronted with the accusations, he “sought help from a licensed psychologist, wrote a letter of apology to his former firm, and cooperated fully with investigating authorities.”
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].

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