lawyer in Washington who showed “a palpable lack of respect for both this
court and the disciplinary process" received a rare public reprimand
Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
McCants, a solo practitioner in Washington, was disciplined for failing to take
action on behalf of his client and failing to communicate with the client. The
three-judge panel also chided him for demonstrating a “cavalier attitude”
toward the court’s orders during the disciplinary process. The case is sealed
except for the reprimand. Few other details are known.
it is also clear that these failings were not a matter of mere oversight or poor
law practice housekeeping,” Judges Judith Rogers, Patricia Millett and Robert
in the reprimand. “In addition, [McCants] has offered inconsistent
explanations for his conduct, suggesting a distinct lack of candor. This lack of
candor, among other factors, counsels against diversion and in favor of
a phone interview on Wednesday, McCants said he didn’t file pleadings because
he refused to represent the client, who had been difficult to work with. The
client, whom McCants declined to name, citing the confidentiality of the
disciplinary proceedings, “was looking for an ineffective [assistance of
counsel] claim from the start,” he said.
was just unfortunate," McCants said. “I’m prepared to move past
a suspension or disbarment, the reprimand doesn’t affect McCants’ ability to
practice in the court. He has no history of discipline in the D.C. Bar, which
he’s been a member of since 2005.
Office of Bar Counsel investigates hundreds of complaints each year against
members of the D.C. Bar, but they're much less common in the federal courts.
who practice in the federal trial and appeals courts typically belong to the
bars of those courts, separate from membership in the D.C. Bar. The federal
courts each have their own disciplinary system. The D.C. Circuit on average
handles about 20 discipline cases each year, according to court records.
disciplinary matters in the D.C Circuit involve lawyers who were already
disciplined elsewhere or lawyers convicted of a crime. Cases that arise from
allegations of misconduct before the D.C. Circuit, known as original discipline,
are in the minority, said Barry Cohen, chairman of the D.C. Circuit’s Advisory
Committee on Admissions and Grievances. The committee investigates disciplinary
cases and makes recommendations to the court, which ultimately decides whether
to sanction a lawyer.
a member of the committee since 2008, said he could only recall a handful of
original-discipline cases. He declined to comment on the McCants matter.
is the court of appeals, it’s not like a trial court. What happens in courts
of appeals? People file papers, they have oral arguments—there’s not a lot
of ways that bad things can happen there,” Cohen said.
Burger, who leads the professional-responsibility practice at Jackson &
Campbell in Washington, said that the smaller pool of high-caliber lawyers who
typically practice in the D.C. Circuit was one reason it was unusual to see the
court take disciplinary action against a lawyer.
court can refer disciplinary matters to the Office of Bar Counsel to investigate
rather than pursue them internally. The Office of Bar Counsel does not track how
many referrals it receives from the D.C. Circuit, Bar Counsel Wallace “Gene”
Shipp Jr. said.
have relationships with all of the courts to make referrals to us,” Shipp said
in an email. “Sometimes we work together on cases or they refer the matter us
to conduct the investigation.”
the D.C. Circuit does take up a case, it could be that the judges want to send a
message to the lawyers who practice in that court, Burger said.
may want to put down a marker for their expectations of the lawyers that appear
in the circuit,” Burger said. “This is a way for them to set that marker and
not necessarily be beholden to the priorities or the timing or the perspective
of bar counsel.”