Brian McDaniel, a long-time criminal defense attorney in Washington, was recently hit with a public disciplinary notice from the Office of Bar Counsel for failing to communicate with a client.
McDaniel, according to an informal admonition issued May 14, failed to alert a client in a civil case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina about how his case was proceeding and when it was ultimately dismissed. Bar Counsel Wallace Shipp Jr. wrote that while McDaniel's actions warranted the public notice, the office would not press charges.
Shipp's office also issued an informal admonition to one of McDaniel's co-counsel in the case, Craig Ricard, a local solo practitioner who used to be with McDaniel's firm. This marked the first time either attorney was the subject of a public disciplinary action. Reached by phone late Thursday, McDaniel declined to comment. Ricard, who joined the D.C. Bar in 2009, could not be reached.
McDaniel, a member of the D.C. Bar since 1996 and founder of Washington-based McDaniel & Associates, is known for handling high-profile cases around the region, recently representing Jack Johnson, the former county executive of Prince George’s County, Md., who pleaded guilty last year to corruption charges. He also does plaintiffs work, including a pending wrongful termination lawsuit against D.C. officials brought by the city’s former contracts chief, Eric Payne.
According to the informal admonition letters, McDaniel and Ricard represented a man suing a police department in North Carolina. A review of court records showed that the two represented Rocky Mount, N.C., resident Keith Dunn in a civil rights case against Rocky Mount’s police department. Dunn claimed police unlawfully assaulted him while they were raiding a house in Rocky Mount.
McDaniel and Ricard “maintained a fair amount of communication” with Dunn until mid-2011, when Dunn’s phone was disconnected, according to the letters. Bar counsel found that the two failed to take “sufficiently diligent” steps to alert Dunn when the court granted the police department summary judgment and dismissed the case, and also when the court denied a subsequent motion for reconsideration.
They didn’t speak with Dunn until several months after the case had been dismissed, according to the letter. Both attorneys, bar counsel wrote, acknowledged “that there was a breakdown in communication.”
Applying the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, bar counsel found that McDaniel and Ricard violated a rule requiring attorneys to “reasonably consult” with clients. In reviewing the behavior of D.C. Bar members in non-D.C. courts, bar counsel’s office relies on the rules of the court at issue. However, Shipp wrote in a footnote that “even if the D.C. Rules applied, the result would be the same.”
Shipp wrote that his office decided against bringing charges because McDaniel and Ricard cooperated with the investigation, accepted responsibility, expressed remorse, provided Dunn with a full refund and went through new training. Neither attorney has any past history of disciplinary action either, he added.