The District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an opinion on October 5, 2023, approving a negotiated discipline agreement for attorney George A. Teitelbaum involving his mishandling of an estate account while serving as co-personal representative.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of George A. Teitelbaum,” with case no. 22-BG-0906.
The case stems from Teitelbaum’s work administering an estate in the Probate Division of the D.C. Superior Court in 2018. Teitelbaum was appointed co-personal representative along with Jose Morgan to distribute funds from the estate’s bank account. Teitelbaum submitted an accounting of the account to the probate court, which approved the disbursements.
In 2018, Teitelbaum wrote checks to himself and the estate’s legatees from the account. Subsequently, Morgan received notice that the account was overdrawn by $256.81. Teitelbaum could not explain the reason for the overdraft to Morgan at the time.
The D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel opened an investigation after receiving a complaint from Teitelbaum’s former client. Teitelbaum engaged in negotiated discipline proceedings with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which did not uncover clear evidence that the overdraft involved misappropriation.
Teitelbaum admitted to failing to maintain complete financial records of the estate account in violation of D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a). The parties agreed to a proposed sanction of a 30-day suspension, stayed in favor of one year of probation with conditions.
The Board on Professional Responsibility recommended rejection of the negotiated discipline, arguing the facts showed misappropriation occurred. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel disagreed, citing uncertainty over whether misappropriation requires proof of a culpable mental state.
In its October 5, 2023 opinion, the D.C. Court of Appeals declined to reject the negotiated discipline agreement. The court cited unsettled areas of misappropriation law and factual uncertainty over Teitelbaum’s mental state. The court approved the petition for negotiated discipline.
The opinion states:
“In conclusion, litigation risks made it uncertain whether a misappropriation charge against respondent could be proven in a contested case by clear and convincing evidence. Because of this uncertainty, we will not reject respondent’s negotiated discipline for not stipulating a charge of misappropriation.”
According to avvo.com, Mr. Teitelbaum is a probate attorney in Wheaton, Maryland. He attended the American University, Washington College of Law, graduating in 1980. He acquired his law license in D.C. in 1983.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.