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In re Member of Bar of Supreme Court of State of Delaware, Nowak

Supreme Court of Delaware

July 13, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE: STEPHEN L. NOWAK, Petitioner Board No. 112896-R

          Submitted: July 6, 2017

          Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.

          ORDER

         This 13th day of July 2017, it appears to the Court that:

(1) On September 22, 2010, this Court suspended the petitioner, Stephen L. Nowak, from the practice of law for one year, retroactive to October 20, 2009 when the Court transferred him to disability inactive status.[1] Although eligible to petition for reinstatement beginning October 20, 2010, Nowak pursued a different career. In September 2014, we granted Nowak's petition to be transferred to retirement status.[2]
(2) In February 2017, Nowak filed a petition for reinstatement allowing him to return to active status for the purpose providingpro bono legal services on a limited basis. The Board on Professional Responsibility held a hearing on Nowak's petition and filed its Report and Recommendations with this Court on June 30, 2017. The Board recommends that Nowak be reinstated with certain conditions. Neither Nowak nor the Office of Disciplinary Counsel have filed any objections to the Board's Report.
(3) The Court has reviewed the Report and Recommendations carefully. The Court has determined that the Board's Report and Recommendations should be adopted in its entirety.

         NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED the Board's Report and Recommendations are hereby ACCEPTED. Stephen L. Nowak, Esquire shall be reinstated, effective immediately, as a member of the Bar of this Court subject to a two-year period of probation with all of the conditions set forth in the attached Report.

         BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATES OF DELAWARE

         IN THE MATTER OF A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE: STEPHEN L. NOWAK, Petitioner

         Board Case No. 112896-R

         REPORT OF BOARD ON PETITION FOR REINSTATEMENT

         A panel of the Board on Professional Responsibility (the "Board") was convened on April 27, 2017 to hear the petition of Stephen L. Nowak ("Petitioner") for his reinstatement to the practice of law. The members of the panel for the Board were Louise Roselle, Deirdre McCartney, Esquire, and D. Benjamin Snyder, Esquire as Chair (the "Panel"). Patricia Bartley Schwartz, Esquire represented the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC"). Petitioner appeared pro se.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware on December 9, 1987.[1] On October 20, 2009, he was transferred to Disability Inactive Status pursuant to Disciplinary Procedural Rule 19(c).[2] On May 10, 2010, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a Petition for Discipline.[3] On June 23, 2010, the Board on Professional Responsibility held a hearing on the petition, and on August 3, 2010, the board issued a report of its findings to the Delaware Supreme Court.[4] The Board found (and Petitioner admitted) violations of five rules of the Delaware Lawyer's Rules of Professional Conduct.[5] The violations were based upon Petitioner's failure to maintain books and records, safeguard client funds, supervise non-lawyer assistants, and misrepresentations in his Supreme Court Certificates of Compliance.[6] On September 22, 2010, the Delaware Supreme Court approved the report of the board and suspended Petitioner from the practice of law for one year, retroactive to when he was transferred to Disability Inactive Status.[7] Petitioner was eligible to petition for reinstatement on October 20, 2010.[8]

         After practicing for 22 years, Petitioner decided not to seek reinstatement, and instead pursued a career in information technology.[9] In August of 2014, Petitioner filed a petition to be transferred from Disability Inactive and Suspended Status to Retirement Status.[10] On September 19, 2014, the Supreme Court granted that petition, and required that "[s]hould Petitioner request a transfer from Retirement Status, he must petition for reinstatement and prove by clear and convincing evidence the factors for reinstatement outlined in Disciplinary Procedural Rule 22(g)(lM8).[11]

         On February 17, 2017, Petitioner filed a Petition for Reinstatement, seeking to reinstate his license to practice law. While Petitioner does not plan to return to the full time practice of law or leave his current employment, he would like his license reinstated to enable him to provide pro bono legal services on a limited basis.[12] This is the Board's decision following its hearing on that petition.

         II. Applicable Legal Standard

         Under Rule 22(g) of the Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, Petitioner has the burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence:[13]

(1)the petitioner's professional rehabilitation, including substantial rehabilitation from any drug or alcohol problem from which the petitioner had suffered;
(2)the petitioner's compliance with all applicable disciplinary orders and other rules, including conditions of restitution;
(3)the petitioner's fitness to practice;
(4)the petitioner's overall competence and current awareness of recent developments in the law;
(5)that the petitioner has not engaged in any other professional misconduct in any jurisdiction since ...

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