No. 255, Disc. Dkt. No. 1 Disciplinary Bd. File No. 17 DB 79, Rule to Show Cause Why Respondent Should Not Be Disbarred
John W. Herron, Samuel D. Miller, III, Philadelphia, for petitioner.
L. Jackson Thomas, II, West Chester, for respondent.
O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which O'Brien, C. J., joined. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
This attorney disciplinary proceeding presents the following questions: whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that John T. Grigsby, III (respondent) filed a sworn pleading which he knew was false; whether respondent's conduct violates Disciplinary Rule 1-102 of the Code of Professional Responsibility [hereinafter cited as DR 1-102]; and whether disbarrment is an appropriate sanction, considering respondent's history of disciplinary violations.
Respondent, a lawyer in the Philadelphia area since 1963, has a history of disciplinary infractions. In 1970, the Philadelphia Bar Association Committee of Censors (Committee) privately reprimanded respondent for failure to act competently because he mishandled a client's case during 1966-67. The Committee also noted that respondent's testimony at a hearing on the matter was misleading. In 1971, the Committee again privately reprimanded respondent for failure to act competently because he neglected a client's case during 1968-69.
Respondent has also been before this Court in a disciplinary proceeding which involved two separate incidents of misconduct, Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Grigsby, Disciplinary Board File No. 5 D.B. 76. In one incident, respondent filed a false petition seeking counsel fees in 1973. (He
had been court-appointed counsel in a murder case tried in 1971-72.) The petition was fraudulent and was filed for the purpose of obtaining fees for work respondent did not perform. In the other incident, respondent filed a false complaint in connection with a tenant's negligence action against a landlord. The tenant's accident occurred on February 27, 1969, but the complaint which was filed on March 1, 1971 falsely showed the date of accident as March 1, 1969. Respondent had missed the statute of limitations, so he changed the date on the complaint after the tenant had signed it. The fraud was eventually discovered and the action was barred. On April 19, 1979 this Court publicly censured respondent for these incidents.*fn1
In this case, two charges have been brought by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (Petitioner). Respondent admits one of the charges: filing a false sworn application for a driver's license. Because a 1968 judgment against respondent arising out of a car accident remained unsatisfied, respondent's driver's license (issued to "John T. Grigsby, III") was revoked in 1972. In 1975, respondent submitted a sworn application for a driver's license under the name "John T. Grigsby, Jr." In the application he falsely stated that no license had ever been issued to him, that no judgments against him arising out of a car accident were unsatisfied, and that no license issued to him had ever been revoked. A new license was issued in response to this application but revoked when the fraud was discovered.
Respondent denies the other charge that he filed a sworn pleading known to be false in connection with a garnishment proceeding. The judgment creditor who held the unsatisfied 1968 judgment sought to execute against respondent by garnishing his checking account. Respondent resisted the execution by filing a Petition to Stay Writ of Execution which stated that ...