The Board on Professional Responsibility of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals cleared attorney Michael Alexei of any wrongdoing in an immigration case on Friday, June 30, 2023.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Michael Alexei” with case no. 20-BD-018.
The charges cited District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1(a)(b), 1.5(a), 1.15(a)(b)(e), and 8.1 which state:
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.
Prohibits misappropriation of entrusted funds. Misappropriation is ‘any unauthorized use of a client’s funds entrusted to the lawyer, including not only stealing but also unauthorized temporary use for the lawyer’s own purpose, whether or not the lawyer derives any personal gain or benefit therefrom.
Provides that advances of unearned fees costs shall be treated as the property of the client until earned or incurred unless the client gives informed consent to a different arrangement.
A lawyer in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not knowingly make a false statement of facts.
The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
According to the specification of charges on February 6, 2022, the respondent entered into an agreement to represent a client in an immigration matter. The respondent presented two retainer options to the client: one covering the filing of disciplinary complaints against the client’s former attorneys with no fee, along with a fee dispute complaint on a contingency fee basis; the other option covering a new green card application, humanitarian reinstatement, and appeal of a USCIS decision, for a fee of $5,000. The client chose the second option and paid the required deposit. Subsequently, on September 26, 2015, the client was informed that the relief sought from USCIS had been denied. USCIS stated that they never received a properly filed request for reinstatement and no qualifying I-601 application for waiver of grounds of inadmissibility was filed on the client’s behalf.
Because of this, charges were filed against the respondent. In response, the respondent filed his answer, admitting and denying some parts of the specification of charges.
On the other hand, the hearing committee did not consider the report presented by the Disciplinary Counsel’s expert witness to be sufficiently clear or convincing regarding the issue of competence against the respondent. According to the committee’s findings, the respondent demonstrated engagement with the client, thoroughly understood the case’s history, researched available options, prepared well-constructed legal briefs, devised a strategy based on the case’s history, and effectively executed that strategy.
Consequently, the committee asserted that the Disciplinary Counsel lacked adequate support for arguing that the respondent’s legal approach was inadequate. Regarding the accusation of “unreasonable fees,” the hearing committee stated that no testimonies were provided to establish that the fees charged were unreasonable given the volume or complexity of the work performed. On the other hand, concerning the allegation of misappropriation of funds, the committee found no factual basis to conclude that the respondent negligently or intentionally mishandled the client’s fees. After thoroughly reviewing all documentary and factual evidence, the board determined it appropriate to recommend dismissing the charges accordingly.
The report states:
“For the foregoing reasons, the Committee finds that Disciplinary Counsel has failed to prove any of the charged violations by clear and convincing evidence. The Hearing Committee recommends that the charged violations be dismissed.”
In the latest order of the Board on Professional Responsibility, the same stated that the main issue was whether the respondent had earned the flat fee before completing the representation. The hearing committee found that the attorney had earned the full fee, and the Board agreed with this finding, supported by substantial evidence. As a result, there was no violation of the rules related to handling advance fees.
Additionally, the Board noted that the Disciplinary Counsel’s argument that the fee was unreasonable was also dismissed, as the attorney had performed the work for which the fee was charged. Furthermore, Disciplinary Counsel’s claims of knowingly false statements were not substantiated. The respondent’s statements were deemed not knowingly false, as he believed them to be technically true, and there was a lack of development in the record regarding the second statement.
Based on these foregoing reasons, the Board concluded that the charges against the respondent should be dismissed due to the lack of clear and convincing evidence for any of the alleged rule violations.
The Disposition states:
“Because Disciplinary Counsel has failed to prove any of the charged Rule violations by clear and convincing evidence, the charges are hereby dismissed. See D.C. Bar R. Xl, 9(c).”
Mr. Alexei practices in Washington, District of Columbia. He is licensed in the District of Columbia. His info can be found on martindale.com.
A copy of the original filing can be found here,