Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 21162
Attorney Name Walker, Lonnie Eugene
DBP Docket No. 43 DB 1999
Supreme Court Docket No. 642 D.D. No. 3
County Dauphin
Disciplinary Counsel Edwin R. Frownfelter
Counsel for Respondent Samuel L. Stretton; Deborah Griffin
Decision Date 2001-01-25
Effective Date 2001-02-25
Case Digest Respondent had formerly been disbarred and had been reinstated. He agreed to assist a client with a custody matter which had been filed in the State of Maryland, only for the purposes of contesting jurisdiction. Respondent was not admitted to the practice of law in Maryland. Respondent failed to file an answer or response to the custody petition, and a default judgment was entered against the client. Respondent filed a motion to vacate the judgment with the Maryland Court, which issued a notice scheduling hearing before a master on both the jurisdictional issue and the merits of the case. Respondent appeared at the hearing in Maryland with the client, but was unprepared to defend the merits of the case. The master ruled against the client on the jurisdictional issue, and Respondent attempted to present a case on the merits while admitting he had not prepared to do so or subpoenaed witnesses in support of the client's case. In the days after the hearing, Respondent conceded to counsel for the opposing party that he was not admitted in Maryland, and drafted a set of exceptions which the client filed pro se. Counsel for the opposing party filed a motion to vacate the proceedings based upon Respondent's invalid representation, and one week later the client obtained a Maryland attorney as counsel, and the case was relitigated. Oipposing counsel filed a motion for sanctions against Respondent, and the Court ordered Respondent to pay a sanction of $875, which Respondent failed to do. Respondent acknowledged that he did no significant research on the jurisdictional issue.
Rule Violation(s) 1.1; 5.5(b); 8.4(b); 8.4(d)
Discipline Imposed Suspension for one year and one day
Points of Law Where a lawyer fails to research his client's case, fails to file responsive pleadings, and attempts to represent the client in a jurisdiction where he is not admitted to the practice of law, he has engaged in incompetent representation in violation of RPC 1.1. Where a lawyer has been previously disbarred and reinstated, it is expected that he will exercise care in his decision-making in matters of professional responsibility. The public is entitled to protection from a lawyer who fails to apply a cool and rational thought process to his evaluation of the client's needs. Suspension is warranted when a lawyer who was previously disbarred and reinstated commits violations of professional obligations which raise questions about his fitness to practice.
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