On Thursday, February 1, 2024, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility released its report recommending that attorney James A. Moody be disbarred.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of James A. Moody,” with case no. 23-BD-022.

The charges cited District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5(b),1.15(a), (c), and (d), 8.1(b), and 8.4(c) and (d).

The report stems from Moody’s representation of Lion Farms, LLC in lawsuits challenging a federal program that required raisin producers to provide a portion of their crop to the government. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled this constituted an unlawful taking. Lion Farms was later awarded a $7.6 million settlement from these suits.

However, when Moody received the settlement funds in his client trust account in 2019, he failed to notify Lion Farms. He proceeded to withdraw over $200,000 for his own personal use within the first month. For the next year, Lion Farms repeatedly asked Moody for information about the status of their funds, but he ignored these requests.

Seven months later, Lion Farms discovered from other sources that the government had paid the settlement to Moody instead of directly to them. Moody eventually sent Lion Farms around two-thirds of the money but withheld the remaining funds. He continued gradually withdrawing money from the trust account over the next few years.

The board report found Moody intentionally misappropriated client funds by taking money from the trust account without Lion Farms’ consent. This violated several rules of conduct. Moody also failed to cooperate with the disciplinary investigation by ignoring requests for information.

As a result, the board agreed with the hearing committee’s recommendation that Moody should be disbarred. They noted disbarment is the appropriate sanction given Moody’s violations and that making restitution would be necessary for any potential reinstatement. The case now awaits final review by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The recommendation states:

“Accordingly, we recommend that the Respondent be disbarred. We further recommend that the Respondent’s attention be directed to the requirements of the D.C. Bar R. XI, 14, and their effect on eligibility for reinstatement. Should Respondent seek reinstatement, a demonstration that he has made Lion Farms whole will be highly relevant evidence.”

According to avvo.com, Mr. Moody is a civil rights attorney in Washington, D.C. He acquired his law license in D.C. in 1979. 

A copy of the original filing can be found here.