On Friday, February 23, 2024, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility Ad Hoc Hearing Committee released a report recommending suspension with probation against attorney Steven Kreiss for violations of several Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of a client seeking to become a permanent U.S. resident.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Steven Kreiss,” with case no. 23-BD-008.

The charges cited District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1(a) and (b), 1.3(a) and (b), 1.4(a) and (b), 1.5(a), 1.15(a), and 1.16(d).

Failing to provide competent representation and failing to represent his client with skill and care.

Failing to represent his client with diligence and zeal.

Charging an unreasonable fee.

Failing to maintain complete financial records.

Failing to take timely steps to protect his client’s interests by surrendering papers and property to which the client was entitled.

The report stems from Disciplinary Counsel charges filed against Kreiss in February 2023 related to his handling of John Andoh’s immigration matter between 2006 and 2019. Andoh hired Kreiss to appeal the denial of his wife Denise Johnson’s second I-130 visa petition seeking to adjust his immigration status. Kreiss was retained to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals for a flat fee of $3,500.

However, the report found that Kreiss made several critical mistakes in handling the appeal. He failed to identify Johnson, the actual petitioner, in the notice of appeal and notice of appearance forms, instead listing Andoh as the petitioner despite lacking standing to appeal. Kreiss also did not attach a notice of appearance for Johnson. As a result, the BIA dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

The report also determined that Kreiss failed to file an appellate brief with the BIA by the August 2012 deadline, despite requesting two extensions to the filing deadline citing upcoming hip surgery. Kreiss underwent surgery in May 2012 but took no action on the case for months after the deadline passed until the BIA issued its decision in November 2012. The BIA was not able to consider the merits of the case due to the procedural errors and lack of briefing by Kreiss.

Kreiss continued representing Andoh and charging additional fees but failed to inform his client that the appeal was dismissed due to Kreiss’ mistakes. He pursued multiple additional appeals in federal court under the Administrative Procedures Act, which offers a more deferential standard of review than the de novo review provided by the BIA. None of the appeals were successful, and Andoh spent over $20,000 total on legal fees.

The report concluded Kreiss violated rules requiring competence, diligence, communication with clients, reasonable fees, record keeping, and protecting client interests. Kreiss denied any wrongdoing and disputed the basis for the charges throughout the disciplinary proceedings. However, the Committee found clear and convincing evidence to support the violations.

As an aggravating factor, the report noted Kreiss has received prior discipline—an informal admonition in 2005 and public censure in 2019—for similar misconduct failing to file briefs and properly return client files. Despite the aggravating factor, the Committee recommended a sanction of a six-month suspension with 30 days stayed contingent on one year of probation with conditions including CLE requirements and a practice management assessment.

According to avvo.com, Mr. Kreiss is a patent application attorney. He attended the South Texas College of Law. He acquired his law license in the District of Columbia in 1970.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.