D.C. school board president Conrad P. Smith has asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to overturn a recommendation that he lose his license to practice law for 18 months, charging that the D.C. Bar's investigation was unfair and violated his constitutional rights.
The Board of Professional Responsibility, the disciplinary arm of the D.C. Court of Appeals, found last month that Smith was "guilty of perpetrating a fraud" on a client in one case and had neglected clients in that case and another one.
In his petition to the court, which has final authority in such cases of discipline, Smith denied 'that any of his conduct in either of those two cases was improper, unethicl or otherwise an abandonment or neglect of his professional responsibility to his clients."
Most of Smith's petition, however, dealt with procedural matters, which he said denied him "even the elements of fundamental fairness," in the bar's handling of the complaints against him.
One of his major complaints, according to his petition, was the wide publicity given the recommendation of hearing committees that he be disciplined. Under new rules adopted by the Court of Appeals in January, disciplinary procedures become public if a hearing committee recommends sanctions against a lawyer.
Smith also objected to the bar consolidating the two separate complaints against him, complained he was not given sufficient notice of hearings and was denied access to transcripts of the hearings.
The bar acted on complaints against Smith by two different clients. In one case a woman said she was evicted from her apartment because Smith failed to appear in court on her behalf. In the other, a widow complained that Smith failed to search for assests that my have been due her after the death of her estranged husband.
"We find Smith guilty of intentionally abandoning his client's cause in one case and neglecting his client's interests while at the same time deliberatly misleading that client in another," the Board of Professional Responsibility ruled last month.
It called for the 18-month suspension on the grounds that the charges are serious "and warrant a serious sanction."