Edgerton, Senior Circuit Judge, Burger and Leventhal, Circuit Judges.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
Supplemental Opinion On Rehearing March 13, 1968.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BURGER
This is an appeal from part of a judgment of the District Court dismissing charges of misconduct filed by the District Court's Committee on Admissions and Grievances against Appellant Sullivan, a member of the District Court Bar.
The appeal arises in part out of the activities of the American Archives Association and its pattern of relations with some members of the legal profession; the fact pattern in this case is fairly representative of similar occurrences in this jurisdiction.
American Archives Association is what is commonly called a "missing heir finder" notwithstanding its pretentious name. As such it located the 14 heirs of Margaret Delano Gage before any of them had counsel, and secured assignments from the 12 paternal heirs, providing that each would pay Archives forty per cent (40%) of any amounts said heirs might receive from the proceeds of the estate. As is Archives' usual practice the name of the estate was not disclosed until Archives had exhausted its efforts to induce all of the heirs to give assignments to it.
The remaining facts are developed in a stipulation entered into by Appellant and the Committee in the District Court.
1. The Respondent *fn2 was retained by the American Archives Association to represent its interests under assignments which it had secured from nonresident and previously unknown heirs of Margaret Delano Gage, deceased. . . . (Emphasis added.)
2. Shortly after Respondent's employment by American Archives Association, Respondent was asked by American Archives Association if he had any objection to its acquainting its assignors with the fact that Respondent was representing the interest of American Archives Association or to its telling such assignors that if any of them should desire to avail themselves of Respondent's services in the matter, Respondent would be willing to represent them also and without charge. Respondent stated to American Archives Association that he had no objection to its so doing. Thereafter, the Association wrote to each of its assignors (being 12 of the 14 heirs at law and next of kin of the decedent) so advising them. . . . (Emphasis added.)
*fn3. A form of authorization . . . was transmitted by American Archives Association to each of its assignors . . . by which such heir, if he chose to do so, could authorize the Respondent to represent him in the collection of his share of the estate. All twelve of the heirs from whom American Archives Association had received assignments did sign such authorizations and Respondent undertook their representation also. At the time Respondent undertook to represent the heirs, each heir knew that Respondent also represented the interest of American Archives Association. . . . (Emphasis added.)
4. At the time of his retainer by the American Archives Association, the Respondent knew that in similar cases, for many years, and right up to the time of his retainer in the Gage matter, other reputable attorneys practicing in the District of Columbia, known personally to him, had represented and been retained by both the American Archives Association and the heirs who had made assignments of portions of their interests to it.
5. Respondent undertook his representation of American Archives Association and the heirs in good faith.3 After the Respondent was advised by the Grievance Subcommittee that it questioned whether Respondent's representation of American Archives Association and the paternal heirs was in conformity with the canons of ethics as to solicitation and as to conflict of interest, Respondent continued to represent the paternal heirs and the American Archives Association. Respondent advised the Grievance Subcommittee as to his reasons for so continuing, and that according to his understanding of the law in this jurisdiction there was no conflict of interest and no solicitation; that if a conflict should arise he would promptly suggest to his clients the need for separate representation; and because of his understanding of his duties and obligations to his clients he did not feel that he could or should withdraw.
Charges against Appellant were heard by the Committee on Admissions and Grievances. The Committee specifically found that Appellant had violated Canons 6, ...