Harry T. Alexander, a former Superior Court judge for 10 years and now one of the city's more flamboyant and controversial lawyers, yesterday was suspended from practice for two years by the District's highest court for violation of professional responsibilities, including neglecting his clients.
In making its decision, the District Court of Appeals upheld a recommendation by its legal disciplinary committee, charging Alexander with disciplinary violations in eight cases over the last five years.
In one case, Alexander was accused of telling a court clerk that an opposing attorney had agreed to a delay in a trial when the lawyer allegedly had told Alexander he would not agree to a trial continuation.
Alexander, who resigned from Superior Court in 1976, yesterday said the decision was racist and motivated by personal animosity; he said he will appeal the decision.
"There is one standard for black folks and one standard for white folks," said Alexander, who is black. "But this decision has not made me feel incompetent. I'll never be incompetent. My background is better than most people."
In a footnote included in the four-page order, the three-judge appeals court panel rejected Alexander's claims of discrimination.
Deputy Bar Counsel Gene Shipp, who argued the case before the court, said yesterday, "The system has been extremely patient and lenient with Judge Alexander. It was clear from our position that numerous people had been hurt by the quality of his representation."
The panel -- composed of Chief Judge William C. Pryor and Judges John M. Ferren and George R. Gallagher -- adopted the recommendations made by the Board on Professional Responsibility and attached the committee's findings to its order. The board, an arm of the court system, accused Alexander of violations ranging from arriving late for court to failing to tell a client he had withdrawn a lawsuit.
Alexander "has demonstrated a defiant attitude toward his clients, his adversaries and the courts," the attached report read. "He has placed his personal convenience above the proper representation of his clients and the requirements of our adversary system of justice."
At the time of the hearing, Alexander, in written arguments, claimed the cited violations were, in fact, "the product of strategic decisions, miscommunications and misunderstanding."
Alexander also argued that the recommended suspension was "unduly harsh" and failed to take into consideration his "distinguished career."
"No one has a better background than me," said Alexander, "I don't fall short. Check the backgrounds of the men and women who sit on those committees. Check the judges."
In recommending the suspension, the committe noted Alexander's long career as a lawyer and judge, but said that prior disciplinary violations and repeated instances of misconduct justified the two-year suspension. The D.C. Court of Appeals earlier had upheld a 90-day suspension of Alexander for neglecting two clients who had retained him to defend them in criminal cases.
Alexander, a popular figure in many parts of Washington, yesterday reserved his harshest criticism for the court's unwillingness to agree with his contention that the charges brought by the Board on Professional Responsibility were motivated by "racial, personal or political discrimination."
Alexander's criticism reflects a longstanding impression among some black lawyers that the disciplinary committee disproportionately penalizes black lawyers and attorneys practicing alone, while rarely disciplining members of large uptown law firms.