In the Matter of a Member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware. Christopher W. POVERMAN, Esquire.
Submitted: Sept. 20, 2013.
This decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.
ODC File No.2012-0228-B, ODC File No.2012-108242-B.
Before HOLLAND, JACOBS and RIDGELY, Justices.
HENRY DuPONT RIDGELY, Justice.
This 7th day of November, 2013, the Board on Professional Responsibility having filed its Report with this Court on September 20, 2013, pursuant to Rule 9(d) of the Rules of the Board on Professional Responsibility; and the respondent and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel having filed no objections to the Board's Report; and, the Court having reviewed the matter pursuant to Rule 9(e) of the Rules of the Board on Professional Responsibility,
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED, that the Board's report filed on September 20, 2013 (attached) is hereby APPROVED with the recommendation of a public reprimand to include the following conditions: (1) if Respondent does not seek inactive status within thirty days of the Court's Order, he must undergo a mental health evaluation and monitoring by DE-LAP for a period of one year, and (2) payment of the Continuing Legal Education Commission late fees and ODC costs.
Susan H. Kirk-Ryan
302 Brockton Road
Wilmington, DE 19803
September 20, 2013
BY ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
Ms. Cathy L. Howard
Clerk, Supreme Court of Delaware
55 The Green
Dover, DE 19901
Re: IMO: Christopher W. Poverman, Esquire, No. 432, 2013 ( Board Case Nos.2012-0228-B: 108242-B) E-FILED
Dear Ms. Howard:
Pursuant to the September 10, 2013 request of the Court, enclosed please find the redacted version of our Panel's August 16, 2013 report and recommendation in the above-captioned matter.
Please contact me if the Court should require anything further.
Susan H. Kirk-Ryan (I.D.# 1070)
cc: Christopher W. Poverman, Esquire (with enclosures)
Jennifer-Kate Aaronson, Esquire (with enclosures)
Ms. Carey C. McDaniel (with enclosures)
Patricia O. Vella, Esquire (with enclosures)
BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
OF THE SUPREME COURT OF DELAWARE
IN THE MATTER OF A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE SUPREME COURT OF DELAWARE, CHRISTOPHER W. POVERMAN, RESPONDENT
Board Case Nos.2012-0228-B, 108242-B
BOARD REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF SANCTIONS
I. Procedural Background
Pending before a panel of the Board on Professional Responsibility (the " Board" ) are two Petitions for Discipline: Board Case No.2012-0228-B, dated March 6, 2013, and Board Case No. 108242-B, dated May 1, 2013, involving Christopher W. Poverman, Esquire (" Respondent" ), a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of Delaware. A hearing was scheduled for Board Case 2012-0228-B for May 23, 2013, but the hearing was continued and the two cases were consolidated, at the unopposed request of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (" ODC" ).
Respondent filed a Response to the Petition in Board Case No.2012-0228-B dated April 19, 2013, but never filed a response to the petition in Board Case No. 108242-B.
The Board heard the two cases on June 10, 2013. At the hearing, Respondent admitted to violations of both counts of the first petition, Board Case 2012-0228-B: 3.4(c) (" Respondent knowingly disobeyed an obligation under the rules of a tribunal" ) and 8.4(d) (" Respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice" ). Respondent also admitted to violations of both counts of the second petition, Board Case No. 108242-B: 8.4(c) (" Respondent engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" ) and 8.4(d) (" Respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice" ).
ODC and Respondent submitted Amended Joint Exhibits prior to the hearing, and an Amended Joint Stipulation of Fact at the hearing. Because Respondent admitted to the violations in all counts of both petitions, the hearing focused on the appropriate sanction for those violations.
ODC called Respondent as a witness at the hearing, and Respondent also testified on his own behalf.
Pursuant to Rule 9(d) of the Delaware Lawyers' Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, this is the Board's Report and Recommendation of Sanctions.
II. Factual Findings of the Board
Respondent was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Delaware on March 8, 1991. Amended Joint Stipulation of Fact (" Stipulation" ) ¶ 1.
Respondent was admitted to the Bars of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia at approximately the same time period. Joint Exhibit (" Exhibit" ) A, Deposition Transcript (" Deposition" ) page 2.
From 1999 to 2005, Respondent was on inactive status with the Delaware Bar. Petition for Reinstatement, ¶ 4 and 5, Exhibit K3.
Respondent was issued a Rule to Show Cause on March 28, 2005, for his failure to file his 2005 Annual Registration Statement, and directed to appear in person before the Supreme Court of Delaware on April 20, 2005. Exhibit K1.
Respondent failed to appear before the Court on April 20, 2005, and as a result was suspended as a member of the State of Delaware, by Order of the Supreme Court. Exhibit K2.
Nearly four years later, on February 10, 2009, Respondent filed a Petition for Reinstatement, Exhibit K3, citing among other things as reasons for his delay in responding to the 2005 Court Order:
• While the Respondent had his old firm forwarding his mail to his Virginia home, he failed to inform them of his new Baltimore address, so he was " not getting forwarded mail on a timely basis."
• Respondent received a large packet of mail in May 2005, which included the Registration application and Rule to Show Cause. Respondent contacted ODC and learned he was suspended, and would have to petition for reinstatement.
• In July 2005, Respondent [Redacted] " lost track of my responsibility to resolve my registration problem."
• In late 2005 [Redacted] " I froze."
• Respondent contacted ODC to begin reinstatement in 2007[Redacted]. Respondent eventually filed the 2009 petition.
• If Respondent were reinstated, he said he would " continue to adhere to the strong standards to which Delaware attorneys are held." " I continue to attend CLE even though the states that I practice in ... do not require it." Reinstatement Petition letter, Exhibit K4.
The Supreme Court reinstated Respondent as an active lawyer in good standing on March 10, 2009, rescinding its April 2005 suspension. Exhibit K5.
B. Board Case No.2012-0228-B: The CLE Deficiency
Respondent worked for Chartwell Law Offices, out of their Wilmington office (" Chartwell Wilmington" ) at 300 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, DE, from August 1, 2011, until May 31, 2012, and out of their Baltimore Office (" Chartwell Baltimore" ) at 2200 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD, until June 15, 2012. Thereafter Respondent was of counsel for Michael Zwaig, Esq., at the same 2200 Eastern Avenue address. Respondent was terminated on March 11, 2013. Hearing Transcript (" Hearing" ) pages 8, 21-22, 26.
Respondent's 2011 Annual Registration Statement, filed on March 21, 2011, listed his office as Funk & Bolton, P.A., 36 S. Charles Street, his home address as 2906 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, and his email as cpoverman @fblaw.com. Exhibit H.
Respondent's 2012 Annual Registration Statement listed his office address at Chartwell Wilmington; his home address as 143 S. Linwood Ave., Baltimore, and his email as email@example.com. Exhibit I.
Respondent's 2013 Annual Registration, filed on March 27, 2013, lists no office address; the 143 S. Linwood Ave. home address; an alternate " home" address, 2200 Eastern Avenue, and an email address of chrispoverman @verizon.net. Exhibit J.
Respondent continues to maintain the 2200 Eastern Avenue address: " Technically I still keep that office. You still send me mail there." Hearing page 23.
As an active member of the Delaware Bar, Respondent was required to complete continuing legal education (CLE) requirements and submit a verified transcript by February 1, 2012. Even if he had not completed the required CLE, Respondent was obliged to submit a transcript and plan of completion. Stipulation ¶ 7.
Respondent did not complete 1.7 general credits of the required credit hours of CLE or certify a 2011 transcript, and Executive Director Margot Millar sent Respondent a June 27, 2012 email, a July 19, 2012 letter by facsimile and U.S. mail, and a second email on August 14, 2012, about Respondent's failure to complete his CLE requirements. The emails were addressed to cpoverman @chartwelllaw, and letters to the Chartwell Wilmington address, per the Respondent's 2012 Registration statement. Respondent did not answer any of the correspondence. Stipulation ¶ 8, Exhibits B1, 2, and 3.
Ms. Millar sent an August 15, 2012 Statement of Noncompliance regarding Respondent to ODC, with a Notice and copy to Respondent. Stipulation ¶ 9, Exhibit B4.
Patricia Schwartz, Esq., notified Respondent on August 23, 2012, that Ms. Millar had referred the Respondent's non-compliance with CLE to the ODC. At that time Respondent provided ODC his office address as 2200 Eastern Avenue, and provided his cell phone number. Stipulation ¶ 10.
Ms. Schwartz sent an August 24, 2012 letter to Respondent at the 2200 Eastern Avenue address, about the CLE referral and requested documentation of compliance by September 7, 2012. Respondent denies receiving the letter, but in any event, did not respond. Response to Petition for Discipline ¶ 6, Stipulation ¶ 11, Exhibit C1.
Ms. Schwartz sent a September 19, 2012 follow-up letter to Respondent at the 2200 Eastern Avenue address, citing her August 24 letter, reminding him of ODC's request, and of Respondent's duty under Rule 8.1(b) of the Delaware Lawyer's Rules for Professional Conduct to respond to ODC's demand for information. Respondent admits he received the letter, and admits that he did not respond to it. Stipulation ¶ 12, Exhibit C2.
Jennifer-Kate Aaronson, Chief Counsel of ODC, sent an October 26, 2012 letter, also to 2200 Eastern Avenue, referring to Ms. Schwartz' August 24 and September 19, 2012 letters, noting Respondent's violation of 8.1(b), and informing Respondent of a formal ODC investigation and scheduled presentation to the Preliminary Review Committee (PRC) on Wednesday, December 5, 2012. ODC gave Respondent until Wednesday, November 21, 2012, to provide any written submission he might want to be considered by the PRC in advance of its meeting, although written submissions received before December 5 could be submitted at the meeting. Exhibit C3.
Respondent admits he received Ms. Aaronson's October 26, 2012 letter, and admits that he did not respond to it. Stipulation ¶ 13.
ODC sent a November 15, 2012 letter to Respondent, noting a November 2, 2012 telephone call to ODC from Amy Dana, Respondent's wife, and attempts to return Ms. Dana's call. ODC left a message for Respondent, on the cell phone number he provided to ODC. Stipulation ¶ 14.
Respondent telephoned ODC on November 21, 2012 (the date his written submission was due for advance consideration by the PRC), acknowledging receipt of the September 19 and October 26 ODC letters. Respondent told ODC that he would contact the CLE Commission and arrange a make-up plan to correct his CLE deficiencies for the reporting period ending December 31, 2011. Stipulation ¶ 15.
Respondent contacted the CLE Commission on December 6, 2012, arranging completion of a make-up plan, preferably by December 14, but definitely by December 31, 2012. Ms. Millar of the CLE Commission confirmed their conversation by a December 7, 2012 email, in which she recommended specific online CLE programs and noted the accrual of late fees for continued noncompliance, some of which could be waived upon certification of Respondent's transcript. Ms. Millar requested that Respondent notify her immediately upon completion of the credit. Stipulation ¶ 16, Exhibit B5.
Ms. Millar of the CLE Commission sent a further email reminder to Respondent on December 7, 2012, which Respondent received, reminding him that he must update his contact information with the Supreme Court. Exhibit B6, Hearing page 21.
Respondent did not complete the CLE by December 31, 2012, and did not communicate with the CLE Commission or with ODC.
ODC sent a February 18, 2013 notice to Respondent at 2200 Eastern Avenue, advising that ODC would present its case to the PRC on March 6, 2013, and that Respondent could send written submissions for consideration by February 27, 2013, for advance consideration by the PRC, or before March 6 for submission at the hearing. The letter summarized the petition to be filed in Case 2012-0228-A. ODC offered Respondent a private admonition and two year private probation, if he consented in writing by February 27, 2013. Exhibit C5.
ODC sent a March 12, 2013 letter to Respondent at 2200 Eastern Avenue, advising that the PRC found probable cause to support a Petition for Discipline, and again offering a private admonition with private probation, provided Respondent accepted the terms of the letter by March 29, 2013. Exhibit C6.
Respondent did not complete the required credit hours of CLE until after Respondent was served with an April 10, 2013 notice of this hearing. He completed a portion of a CLE seminar (1.7 credit hours) on April 30, 2013, the day Respondent was deposed in connection with this case, and completed the seminar ...