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Front Royal lawyer scheduled for disciplinary hearing

By Joe Beck

The state bar association's disciplinary board has scheduled a hearing for April 26 to consider an unspecified misconduct complaint against Front Royal attorney David Allen Downes.

Downes' name appears on the board's docket with those of other attorneys from around the state scheduled for hearings over the next several months.

The hearing will be Downes' third appearance since 2000 to answer accusations of ethical transgressions filed with the bar association. Downes did not return a phone call to his office seeking comment on the case.

The more recent of the two earlier cases against Downes was dismissed in January 2006 "for lack of clear and convincing evidence," according to online bar association records.

But other online records with the bar association show Downes was informally admonished by its disciplinary board in August 2000. Details of the case were unavailable from the bar association, but an online court record with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board of Professional Responsibility spells out the specific accusations and the discipline imposed in Virginia.

The District of Columbia's court document is an opinion imposing "identical reciprocal action" on Downes in the district, where he is also a member of the bar.

The District of Columbia document describes the Virginia action as an informal admonition by the disciplinary board. The document states that, "One Virginia board member dissented, stating that he believed (Downes') conduct did not constitute an ethical violation."

According to the court of appeals' opinion, a client, David E. Broad, ended his attorney-client relationship with Downes sometime after November 1995 and wrote a letter to the Virginia state bar seeking its help in recovering some papers in his file from Downes.

Downes' reply, contained in the court document, refers to a case Broad had pending against the town of Grottoes: "In the event that your frivolous complaint to the state bar is not immediately withdrawn, I expect information concerning my defense will be used against you in your case against Grottos. An exception to the attorney-client privilege occurs when the attorney and client become adverse parties."

The Virginia board specified that Downes' actions constituted "a deliberate wrongful act reflecting adversely on a lawyer's fitness to practice law." The board also ruled that Downes violated ethical provisions covering the termination of representation and "use of client confidence or secret to the disadvantage of the client and to the advantage of the lawyer."

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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