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Top Disciplinary Board Cases of Interest of 2022

Each year, we review the cases decided by the Disciplinary Board and/or the Pennsylvania courts and identify cases of greatest interest. Cases may be considered of interest because they raise or decide issues that cast light on ethical considerations in the practice of law, address emerging technology or practice trends, involve prominent individuals or major news in the Pennsylvania legal community, or are based on unusual or remarkable facts.

The following ten cases caught our attention:

  1. William H. Lynch, Jr.’s problems arose from an obsession that got out of hand. After striking up a friendship and text correspondence with a woman he met at the train station, he began sending her suggestive and explicit text messages. After she indicated she was not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship but only friendship, he began a course of increasingly threatening and belligerent conduct with over ninety sexually explicit, derogatory, and profane text messages over the course of a few days. He then threatened to use his status as an attorney against her, threatening to file a legal action and to make complaints to the police and sending her a “spoliation” letter. He attempted to file three criminal complaints against her, appeared at her workplace, and reminded her he had weapons available to him. His victim filed a complaint with the police, and he was arrested the same day and freed on bail with the condition that he have no contact with his victim. Nonetheless, he sent her a card demanding that she meet with him to return gifts he had given her and attempted to telephone her in violation of the conditions of his bail. He was convicted of the misdemeanor of stalking and placed on a two-year probation after two days of incarceration. At a hearing he testified that he was remorseful but spoke only of the effects of the incident on himself, not of the impact on his victim or the wrongfulness of his conduct. The Hearing Committee recommended a suspension for one year and one day, but the Disciplinary Board urged the Supreme Court to suspend Mr. Lynch for three years, which it did.
  2. Jimmie Moore was a senior judge of the Philadelphia Municipal Court. In 2012, he took steps to challenge U.S. Representative Robert A. Brady for the congressional seat for the 1st Congressional District. He had difficulty raising funds and accumulated a campaign debt. In February of that year, he met with Rep. Brady, who attempted to persuade him to drop his campaign and wait until Rep. Brady stepped down in two years to run for the office. Mr. Moore demanded the sum of $120,000 to pay his campaign debt. Rep. Brady agreed to pay $90,000 toward his debt, which was delivered through various fraudulent means. Mr. Moore did not report the transaction in his campaign reports. He was charged with and pled guilty to several Federal campaign offenses and sentenced to two years’ probation. The Hearing Committee recommended that Mr. Moore be suspended from the practice of law for four years, but the Board recommended disbarment. The Supreme Court elected to suspend him for four years.
  3. Richard S. Ross represented a client in a civil matter in which he obtained a settlement of $230,833. He claimed the client wished to shelter the proceeds from his estranged wife. Mr. Ross proposed an arrangement under which the client would make a secured loan of $117,000 to him. He did not give the client a written statement of the desirability of consulting with independent counsel or disclosing the risks of the transaction. Mr. Ross received the money but failed to repay portions of the loan as agreed. He eventually filed bankruptcy and obtained discharge of his obligations under the contract. The client filed a claim with the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security which was approved. At the time of the hearing Mr. Ross had not repaid the PLFCS. He had prior discipline including a suspension. The Disciplinary Board found his expressions of remorse and psychiatric testimony he offered unconvincing. The Board recommended he be suspended for two years which the Supreme Court implemented.
  4. A three-member panel of the Disciplinary Board approved a Joint Motion for Discipline on Consent to impose a public reprimand on Allegheny County attorney Milton E. Raiford based on his refusal to proceed with representation of two clients. In one case, Raiford expressed a personal opinion that his client was guilty in a motion to withdraw; in another, he refused to proceed with representation of a client until Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. met with him regarding what he felt was discriminatory treatment of his clients.
  5. New York Attorney Jay L. Yackow received a public reprimand on a joint petition for discipline after he appeared in a Pennsylvania case without seeking pro hac vice admission or engaging local counsel. Yackow submitted two memoranda and appeared at a virtual conference in a Pennsylvania case without obtaining pro hac vice admission. He stated that he did not realize the submission of legal memoranda required pro hac vice admission and noted that the court to which the documents were sent took no action to strike them or enjoin his participation in the case. He acknowledged that this belief was incorrect and agreed to the imposition of a public reprimand.
  6. John E. Toczydlowski pled guilty to charges of unlawful dissemination of intimate images and harassment after he posted naked or partially-clothed images of his then-wife on an adult website. He also attached sexually explicit comments. She was neither aware of nor consented to either the taking or the posting of the photos. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to stay away from his now ex-wife. He provided evidence that he was seeing a therapist and identified mental health issues that led to his conduct. He agreed with the legal analysis that a three-year suspension was consistent with prior precedents and entered into a joint petition for discipline. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Mr. Toczydlowski for three years, retroactive to the effective date of his temporary suspension.
  7. Richard E. Bower is the District Attorney of Fayette County. His adult son was involved in an automobile accident and charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and other related charges. At the time of the accident, his son was employed by the Fayette County Bureau of Investigations for the District Attorney's Office of which Mr. Bower had oversight. Instead of referring the matter to the Office of the Attorney General as was usual in cases of conflicts, he appointed as a special prosecutor a criminal defense attorney with several active cases underway opposite the District Attorney’s office. The authority to appoint such special counsel generally is not intended to be used in conflict situations. The special prosecutor dropped the existing charges and substituted a single count, then offered Mr. Bower’s son a tentative plea agreement for ARD which would allow him to avoid a criminal conviction or record. When news of the arrangement became public, a spokesperson for the OAG stated publicly that the matter should have been referred to the OAG as a conflict which Mr. Bower did at that point. The Disciplinary Board determined that Mr. Bower violated Rules of Professional Conduct involving conflicts of interest and prejudice to the administration of justice and imposed a public reprimand on him.
  8. Charles S. Shainberg entered into a Joint Petition in Support of Discipline on Consent with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The joint petition recited that Mr. Shainberg made sexual advances to a vulnerable domestic relations client which were unwelcome and disturbing to her. He also appeared at a master’s hearing seeking to introduce a document that was not within the scope of the remand to the master. When the master refused to accept the document, he requested a recess ostensibly to review the matter with his expert but, in fact, used the time to try to contact the judge’s office. Mr. Shainberg agreed to a suspension for one year and one day consistent with precedents which sanction the Supreme Court imposed.
  9. William R. Korey was engaged to represent a client who was charged with multiple offenses, and who was held over for trial based on hearsay evidence presented at his preliminary hearing. Subsequently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an opinion holding that such an action could not be based solely on hearsay evidence. Mr. Korey believed that the defendant was being improperly prosecuted by corrupt individuals in the District Attorney’s office and the judiciary. After entering his appearance, he embarked on a course of conduct in which he made unfounded and persistent allegations of corruption in the police, prosecutorial, and judicial systems. He engaged in boisterous behavior at hearings, shouting and making accusations against various participants. He was admonished and threatened with removal from the courtroom three times during hearings. The Disciplinary Board found that he violated Rules of Professional Conduct involving expression of personal opinions, disruption of a tribunal, false statements, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and imposed a public reprimand.
  10. William James Helzlsouers application for reinstatement from suspension provided a catalog of mistakes to avoid in a reinstatement application. He provided false or evasive answers to several questions on his reinstatement questionnaire. He denied the pendency of any complaints although two disciplinary complaints were filed during his suspension and falsely stated the misconduct for which he was suspended did not involve issues of client funds. He claimed he had completed the required thirty-six hours of continuing legal education, although he was only able to show proof of eleven hours. He failed to comply with a prehearing order for disclosure of witnesses, and thus was precluded from calling witnesses at his hearing. The Hearing Committee found that he was unprepared and did not show respect for the gravity of the reinstatement process or insight into the conduct that led to his suspension in his hearing. He failed to meet the timeline for filing a post-hearing brief and filed his brief three weeks late. The Hearing Committee and the Disciplinary Board unanimously recommended that his petition for reinstatement be denied, and the Supreme Court denied reinstatement.

Disclaimer: Items posted on this page do not imply the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s ownership or validation of the content. Rather, the Board places content on this page that may be of interest to members of the profession.

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