Case Caption: In re Suspension of B. Patricia Welcome, EsquireCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2012-0094Date: 02/26/2013Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

In an appeal from the disposition of the Ethics and Grievance Committee of the Virgin Islands Bar Association, which found that the attorney violated several ethical rules, the Committee's recommendations are adopted in part and rejected in part and the case is remanded. The attorney's level of cooperation with the disciplinary process was sufficient to warrant a finding that she did not violate Model Rule 8.1(b) by failing to respond. Consequently, the attorney is not in default and an independent review and weighing of the evidence has been undertaken. The facts, as found by this Court, constitute clear and convincing evidence that the attorney violated Model Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a)(1), 1.4(a)(3), and 1.4(a)(4), and the attorney's arguments against such findings are rejected. However, since the Committee in this case simply stated the ultimate sanction recommended, without identifying the baseline sanction or explaining how any aggravating or mitigating factors justify an upward or downward departure from that baseline, it cannot be determined whether it followed the correct procedure or impermissibly weighed all required factors simultaneously. The Committee has not sufficiently explained the reasons for its recommended sanction, nor made certain needed findings concerning the injury caused in this case, and comparison with the sanctions imposed upon other Virgin Islands attorneys for violation of these same Rules. Accordingly, the matter is remanded for a new sanction recommendation, which must (1) take into account that the attorney did not violate Model Rule 8.1(b), and (2) address the issues identified in the present opinion. Remand is for the limited purpose of the Committee issuing, on an expedited basis, a new proposed sanction that is accompanied by an explanation sufficiently clear as to enable meaningful review by this Court.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion