On Friday, December 29, 2023, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility filed a complaint against Attorney Robert B. Fitzpatrick for misusing client funds held in trust.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Robert B. Fitzpatrick,” with case no. 2019-D201.
The charges cited the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a), 1.16(d), and 8.4(d).
According to an amended specification of charges, the disciplinary proceedings stem from Fitzpatrick’s management of an IOLTA, or Interest on Lawyers Trust Account, between June 2019 and March 2023. The document outlines a series of actions taken by Disciplinary Counsel to investigate issues with Fitzpatrick’s account after being notified of an overdraft on June 7, 2019.
Over the next few years, Disciplinary Counsel issued subpoenas and requests for financial records related to the IOLTA. The specification alleges Fitzpatrick failed to provide complete and accurate records on multiple occasions when asked. Records later submitted by Fitzpatrick in December 2019 and May 2022 showed the IOLTA contained both earned and unearned client funds that were not properly handled.
Specific clients are identified in the filings as having earned fees that were never removed from the trust account, as well as unearned refunds that were never returned to clients despite concluded cases. Fitzpatrick is alleged to have held some funds in trust for clients as far back as 2012 without proper distribution.
Throughout 2022, Fitzpatrick offered various plans to Disciplinary Counsel to reconcile the client funds but failed to follow through. This included promises to contact clients to confirm fees and refunds owed, which records show he only partially completed. As of March 31, 2023, over $43,556.96 remained in the disputed IOLTA account according to the charges.
The complaint alleges Fitzpatrick’s actions violated several D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct regarding proper trust account management, record keeping, holding unearned fees, and cooperating with disciplinary authorities. If found to have committed the conduct by violation of the rules, Fitzpatrick faces possible sanctions from the court. A hearing on the charges is anticipated to be scheduled in the coming months.
According to avvo.com, Mr. Fitzpatrick is an employment and labor attorney in Washington, District of Columbia. He attended the George Washington University. He acquired his law license in D.C. in 1968.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.