Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 19596
Attorney Name Heidecker, Jr., James L.
DBP Docket No. 22 DB 1999 and 48 DB 2000
Supreme Court Docket No. 823 D.D. No. 3
County Lehigh
Disciplinary Counsel Harold E. Ciampoli, Jr.
Counsel for Respondent Samuel C. Stretton
Decision Date 2003-06-26
Effective Date 2003-07-26
Case Digest On February 16, 1999 a Petition for Discipline was filed against Respondent at No. 22 DB 1999 alleging that Respondent had neglected his representation of his client. Respondent had been apprised of this alleged misconduct via a DB-7 letter dated December 17, 1997. In response to the DB-7 letter, Respondent submitted a letter of reply dated February 8, 1998. The February 8 reply attached several file copies which Respondent had purportedly generated and sent out in 1994-1995 relating to his representation. On November 10, 1999 a second Petition for Discipline was filed at No. 48 DB 2000. No. 48 DB 2000 alleged Respondent had fabricated the attached documents to his February 8, 1998 letter of reply. After five days of testimony that included two ink dating experts and a document examiner, the Hearing Committee issued a report. A sharply divided Disciplinary Board Majority concurred with the finding of the Hearing Committee that Petitioner had failed to prove by clear and satisfactory evidence that Respondent had fabricated documents. Seven dissenting members found sufficient evidence that Respondent had fabricated documents and recommended that Respondent be disbarred. The Dissenting Opinion found that Petitionerís expert testimony to be compelling and consistent with other substantial evidence. The Dissent concluded that Respondent had engaged in massive document fabrication to substantiate his false testimony. As to No. 22 DB 1999, the Board Majority found that Respondent had failed to file a brief to Superior Court resulting in the dismissal of the client's appeal. Respondent also failed to document his fee arrangement with the client and required his representative to sign a receipt containing release language in exchange for the file. In mitigation, the Majority Board noted Respondentís numerous impressive character witnesses. However, the Majority Board stressed that this was Respondentís fourth disciplinary proceeding and that Respondent had previously received an Informal Admonition, a Private Reprimand and a three month suspension. In view of the prior record and considering the similarity of Respondentís misconduct to that which had resulted in the three month suspension, the Board recommended a nine month suspension. Both parties filed Petitions for Review. The Supreme Court denied the Petitions and suspended Respondent for a year and a day and ordered that he refund $1,440.00 to his client.
Rule Violation(s) RPC 1.3; 1.5(b); 1.8(h)
Discipline Imposed One year and one day suspension
Points of Law Restitution ordered with suspension.
Report/Opinion not available