Case Caption: In re Disbarment of Monique D. McLaughlin, EsquireCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2013-0093Date: 12/05/2013Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

In a petition for disciplinary action filed by the Ethics & Grievance Committee of the Virgin Islands Bar Association requesting approval of its recommendation, among other things, to disbar an attorney, the request for disbarment is denied and a 12 month suspension is imposed. This attorney violated Model Rule 8.1(b) through her failure to appear at a scheduled hearing, even after the Committee went beyond minimum requirements and made numerous attempts to provide notice, including service by fax and hand delivery. After review the Committee's analysis of the remaining charges solely to independently determine whether the panel correctly held that these facts constituted ethical violations, it is found that the attorney violated Model Rule 1.3-diligence-by failing to perform work she had been retained to do in a timely manner and violated Model Rule 1.4 through failure to respond to numerous requests for information as to the status of her work and its request for a refund. Likewise, a $3,000 fee charged for certain work was unreasonable in violation of Model Rule 1.5 in light of the allegation which must be accepted as true that she did not perform any work, yet retained the $3,000 in its entirety. The failure to return, or place in an escrow, any portion of the $3,000 retainer constitutes a violation of Model Rule 8.4(c). However the Committee's finding that the attorney violated Model Rule 8.1(a), which prohibits knowingly making a false statement of fact in connection with a disciplinary proceeding, is rejected. Considering the duties violated, the lawyer's mental state, and the potential or actual injury caused by the lawyer's misconduct a six-month suspension from the practice of law is the appropriate baseline sanction, subject to an upward departure in this case due to the aggravating factor of the attorney's violation of Model Rule 8.1(b), in addition to constituting an independent ethical violation. The attorney is suspended from the practice of law for a 12-month period beginning to run 15 days from the date of this decision, and she is ordered pay $3,000 to the firm which retained her, along with accrued pre- and post-judgment interest. Upon expiration of this suspension, the attorney may petition for reinstatement in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 203(h).

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