On Tuesday, March 7, 2023, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility Ad Hoc Committee recommended the dismissal of charges against attorney Michael Alexei.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Michael Alexei” and was brought by the Disciplinary Counsel 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.

On February 6, 2022, it was stated in the specification of charges that the respondent agreed to represent a client in an immigration matter. The respondent offered two retainer agreement options to his client. One option would cover the filing of disciplinary complaints against the client’s former attorneys for no fee and filing a fee dispute complaint on a contingency fee basis, and the other option would cover a new green card application, humanitarian reinstatement, and appeal of a USCIS decision, for $5,000. After the client had already paid the deposit, the said application proceeded.

However, on September 26, 2015, the client learned that USCIS decided to deny the relief to the client. The USCIS noted that it never receive a properly filed request for reinstatement. In addition, it established that no qualifying I-601 application for waiver of grounds of inadmissibility was filed on behalf of the client.

The filing states:

“Respondent failed to provide evidence to USCIS to prove that Ms. Dijamco’s case warranted the humanitarian of her approved form I-130. 24. Respondent erroneously asserted that a Form 1-601 waiver was not necessary in Ms. Dijamco’s case in order to waive the ground of inadmissibility. Furthermore, the respondent erroneously cited two cases that do not provide support for an exception to the 1-601 waiver.”

On July 6, 2020, the respondent filed his answer to the charges. The respondent, in his pleading and representation, admitted and denied some parts of the specification of charges.

The filing continues:

“Admit in part that the second retainer agreement was given to Maria. Maria was to decide which retainer she wished to accept. Deny in part that this specification accurately describes the second retainer agreement. Deny violation of Rules 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.5 (a), 1.15 (a), 1.15 (b), 1.15 (e), 8.1 (a). Any matter not specifically admitted is denied.”

On the other hand, the hearing committee did not find the report presented by the Disciplinary Counsel’s expert witness to be clear or convincing as to the issue of competence. The hearing committee found that the respondent engaged with his client, learned the history of the case, researched options, prepared legal briefs, created a strategy based on the history of the case, and executed that strategy. The hearing committee believed that the Disciplinary Counsel has no support for an argument that the respondent’s legal strategy was not the best.

In terms of the alleged “unreasonable fees”, the hearing committee stated that there was no testimony that those fees were unreasonable for the volume or complexity of the work completed. On the other hand, for the alleged misappropriation of funds, the committee found that there is no factual basis on which to find that respondent either negligently or intentionally misappropriated the client’s fees. With all of the documentary and factual evidence, the board decided to recommend that the charges be dismissed accordingly.

The Disposition 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.”

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.