By | January 15, 2022

The Supreme Courtroom of Virginia not too long ago upheld the four-year suspension of legal professional Richard Robol, who an Ohio federal court docket says hid inventories of gold his former shopper recovered from a shipwreck.

(My colleague says attorneys ought to take it simple with the nerd references, so I will do my finest to not make any jokes about Tolkien’s dragon, Smaug. Oops, I assume I simply did.)

Stock More durable to Discover Than A Shipwreck

In 1857, 427 passengers and thousands and thousands of {dollars} in gold have been misplaced at sea when a hurricane hit the S.S. Central America off the coast of South Carolina. A salvage firm run by treasure hunter Thomas G. Thompson discovered the ship greater than 100 years later in 1988. However Thompson’s buyers had a tough time gathering their share of the loot, and a long time of litigation adopted.

Robol represented Thompson and his varied salvage corporations all through the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s. In 2012, a federal choose ordered Thompson to surrender the situation of 500 gold cash lacking from the S.S. Central America. However as an alternative of showing in court docket, Thompson went on the run. U.S. Marshals caught as much as him in Florida in 2015, the place he was arrested and charged with legal contempt of court docket. He is been in federal jail ever since.

(Too dangerous he could not rope himself a few sea turtles—look, I did not promise there can be no pirate jokes.)

Robol was sanctioned by an Ohio District Courtroom in 2013 and ordered to pay practically $225,000 for failing to provide inventories of the treasure all through about seven years of litigation. Robol argued that he fairly relied on Thompson’s claims that the paperwork the court docket wished did not exist—however these paperwork have been discovered a number of hours after a creditor seized file cupboards belonging to considered one of Thompson’s enterprise entities.

After withdrawing as Thompson’s counsel, Robol tried to get his arms on a few of the gold as effectively. However an Ohio District Courtroom and the Fourth Circuit Courtroom of Appeals held that Robol couldn’t declare a portion of the salvage award as a result of he didn’t voluntarily flip over the stock paperwork.

Robol’s Disciplinary Case

The Ohio District Courtroom held that Robol knew or ought to have identified that Thompson was withholding inventories of the gold and that he acted “willfully to blind himself from the reality.” On attractionthe Sixth Circuit held that Robol could not have fairly believed Thompson even when he believed “six unimaginable issues earlier than breakfast”—quoting a well-known line from Lewis Carroll’s Via the Wanting Glass.

The Virginia State Bar agreed, discovering that Robol violated seven of Ohio’s Guidelines of Skilled Conduct in his interactions with the Ohio District Courtroom and the Sixth Circuit. Robol appealed to the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board.

Rule 8.5 of Virginia’s Guidelines of Skilled Conduct comprises a alternative of legislation provision that, in disciplinary instances involving conduct in connection to a court docket continuing, requires the Board to use the foundations of the jurisdiction the place the court docket sits. The Board denied Robol’s attraction, and the Bar suspended his license for 4 years.

Clearly not one to go down with out a struggle, Robol appealed to the Virginia Supreme Courtroom, arguing that the state bar couldn’t self-discipline him for violating legal professional conduct guidelines as a result of his “affiliate” standing made him a non-lawyer. However the Supreme Courtroom held that the plain language of the state’s guidelines establishes that affiliate members are attorneys topic to regulation by the state bar.

Learn the Virginia Supreme Courtroom’s opinion and hundreds extra with a free trial of Westlaw Edge.

“Affiliate members” of the Virginia State Bar are entitled to all of the privileges of “energetic members” besides that they can’t observe legislation, vote, or maintain workplace. They will sit on state bar committees, they nonetheless should pay dues (although round half what energetic members pay), and will change their standing to “energetic” at any time.

“A member of the Virginia Bar who has taken affiliate standing has primarily taken a voluntary withdrawal, versus a pressured one, from sure privileges of a member of the Bar,” the court docket wrote.

If we observe Robol’s argument, the court docket concluded, any affiliate member might interact in dangerous religion or fraudulent conduct and the Bar would don’t have any energy to control them. They may then merely reactivate their membership and sail off into the sundown.

(Oops, I did it once more.)

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