Two official hearing committees of the D.C. Bar have recommended that District School Board President Conrad P. Smith lose his license as a lawyer for six months and be publicly censured by the D. C. Court of Appeals for failing to represent clients properly.
In one case, a committee reported, Smith's failure to appear in court resulted in a woman being evicted from her apartment. In another case, a second committee reported a widow may have lost property and pension and insurance benefits due her following the death of an estranged husband because Smith failed to search for them as he said he did, according to documents released yesterday.
The D.C. Bar's Board of Professional Responsibility, which must make a recommendation on disciplining Smith before any suspension or court reprimand takes place, postponed its hearing on the case Thursday for two weeks.
Assistant D. C. Bar Counsel Robin Alexander Smith, who initially investigated complaints against Conrad Smith and who presented them to the hearing committees, said the Board of Professional Responsibility rescheduled the hearing because Smith was not present. She said the board felt he might not have received the official notice, which was delivered to his law office at 514 Kennedy St. on Oct. 5.
Concrad Smith, telephoned at his office at city school, headquarters, first said he knew nothing about the disciplinary recommendations made by the two hearing committees.
Then he acknowledged going to the offices of the Board of Professional Responsibility Thursday morning for the hearing, which was scheduled for Thursday afternoon. "I left because there wasn't anyone there," he said.
Smith, who was admitted to the practice of law in Washington in 1969, was a major supporter of Maxion Barry in the Democratic primary for mayor and has been named as a strong candidate to win interim appointment as Barry's successor on the City Council.
His current difficulties with the D.C. Bar arose from separate complaints by former clients over the way he handled their cases. Each complaint was heard by a separate committee. Complaints about lawyer misconduct do not become public until a hearing committee finds they are valid and recommends some form of discipline.
The committee that recommended the six-month license suspension for Smith found that he had violated five of the disciplinary rules of the D.C. Bar is handling the case of Theodora Gregory. She retained him for a $60 fee in October 1975 to represent her in a dispute with her landlord, Dr. S. T. Hsu.
According to the committee report, Smith appeared in landlord-tenant court once on Gregory's behalf but did not show up for the continuation of the case, which led to his client's eviction.
Smith said Gregory "frustrated" his efforts to arrange a settlement and as a result he "felt he had no more duty or obligation or agreement to represent the complainant (Gregory) further in the legal dispute with her landlord," the official report of the hearing committee said.
Nonetheless, the committee found. "The evidence is clear and convincing that respondent (Smith) violated the following duties to his client," the committee concluded.
"He withdrew from representation of his client without adequately informing her of his withdrawal, without informing the court of such withdrawal and without taking any steps to insure her rights were protected."
The committee vote was 2 to 1 for the six-month suspension, with the third member favoring a three-month loss of license. Earlier, the record showed, Gregory successfully sued Smith for legal malpractice and won a $6,000 judgment.
In the other D.C. Bar disciplinary action against Smith, a Florida woman, Mrs. George Clifton, complained that she had retained him to determine whether her estranged husband, who had died, had willed anything to her - specifically a car, insurance policies, pension and social security benefits she though she had.
Smith took a $280 retainer but, the committee found, failed to make the necessary investigation and, at one point, told his client he was still checking when in fact he had concluded there were so assets.
"There is ample evidence that he was negligent in handling the matter and in failing to carry out the objectives of his client," the committee found.
"As a result of Mr. Smith's negligence, it is impossible to ascertain how much Mr. Clifton may have left and, correlatively, how much Mrs. Clifton may have been entitled to," the committee concluded.
Smith denied to the committee that he was negligent. "He stated, how ever," the committee reported, "that if he had done anything wrong it was to represent that he was pursuing Mrs. Clifton's interests in order to obtain his fee when he had already concluded his work and concluded that the decedent (Clifton) had left no assets."