In re Ryan

670 A.2d 375 (D.C. 1996)



The fiduciary relationship between an attorney and his client extends even to preliminary consultations between the client and the attorney regarding the attorney's possible retention. All that is required is that the parties, explicitly or by their conduct, manifest an intention to create the attorney/client relationship. 


Respondent attorney was a sole practitioner of immigration law. At the time of the disciplinary violations, she had a full-time teaching position in Boston and commuted to Washington on weekends to see her clients. During the rest of the week she relied heavily on a small support staff in her Washington office to handle legal matters; however, none of these employees had any legal or paralegal training. Most of the attorney's clients were indigent persons from other countries who spoke little or no English. They sought her services to legalize their status in the United States through labor certifications. Four of the five disciplinary cases involved misconduct by the attorney related to labor certification proceedings, including missed filing deadlines and failure to return client files when requested to do so. The Board on Professional Responsibility (District of Columbia) recommended that respondent attorney be suspended from the practice of law for four months, pay restitution to certain clients, and show proof of her fitness to resume practice before being reinstated. The court adopted the recommendation of the Board.  The attorney appealed.



Were the Board's credibility determinations and sanction recommendations supported by substantial evidence?




The court was fully satisfied that the Board's findings were supported by substantial evidence as neither the Board nor the hearing committee ignored the lengthy testimony and extensive exhibits; instead, both prepared meticulous, detailed reports that reflected a careful weighing of the evidence presented.

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