Case Caption: In re Suspension of Michael A. Joseph, Esquire as a Member of the Virgin Islands BarCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2011-0099Date: 03/26/2012Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

A petition by the St. Croix Subcommittee of the Ethics and Grievance Committee of the Virgin Islands Bar Association, alleging that an attorney violated several provisions of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and recommending several forms of discipline, including suspension from the practice of law, is granted as modified. Clear and convincing evidence exists that the attorney violated Rule 8.1(b) by failing to respond to a disciplinary investigator's letter or to appear at a schedule hearing in the matter, and as a result all factual allegations against him are taken as true. The attorney also violated Rules 1.1, 1.3, and 1.4 relating to competence, thoroughness, diligence and promptness by failing to prepare for trial as required by court order, resulting in dismissal of a client matter for failure to prosecute-and failing to communicate with the clients for years, including not advising them that their case had been called for trial and subsequently dismissed. The disciplinary adjudicatory panel also concluded that the attorney violated Rule 1.16 by failing to protect the clients' interests upon termination of his representation, but the record contains absolutely no evidence that the attorney-client relationship between the them was terminated during any of the pertinent events. And the disciplinary panel finding that he made representations to clients about progress in their case when they visited his office, even if accepted as true, does not establish a violation of Rule 8.4 because it is possible that on the dates involved the attorney was in fact working on the case which was at that time still "going well." The appropriate sanction for the attorney's violation of Model Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, and 8.1, among the most important ethical duties owed by a lawyer and a serious ethical breach that resulted in actual injury, but only with respect to a single client matter, shall be a suspension of three months, and the attorney is ordered to complete extra continuing legal education credit hours in the field of legal ethics. The disciplinary Committee shall publicly reprimand the attorney in a manner consistent with Supreme Court Rule 207.4.3(d), and the attorney shall be ordered to make certain reimbursement to the clients, to be calculated by the Subcommittee Chair and reported to this Court.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion