On Thursday, June 29, 2023, the DC Court of Appeals Ad Hoc Hearing Committee recommended suspending lawyer Gemma Antoine-Belton for improper conduct as guardian or conservator for disabled adult wards.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Gemma Antoine-Belton,” with case no. 22-ND-004.
The charges cited DC Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1(a)(b), 1.7(b)(4), and 8.4(d) which states:
Failure to provide competent representation and failure to serve the client with skill and care.
Conflict created by the lawyer’s own interest.
Serious interference with the administration of justice.
The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
On October 28, 2022, the Disciplinary Counsel of the DC and the respondent filed a petition for negotiated disposition. The case stemmed when the Disciplinary Counsel received a complaint from the probate court alleging improper conduct by the respondent while serving as conservator and/or guardian for incapacitated adult wards. The investigation revealed that the same assisted her wards in generating rental income, which she did not collect for the ward’s estate or report as income in her annual accountings. Instead, the wards were paid directly.
Additionally, the respondent hired her husband and sister to perform tasks and accounting services for the wards. Furthermore, the respondent allowed one of her wards to live in an apartment she owned without charging rent or utilities until the court permitted her to resign as guardian.
The court expressed dismay at the situation and allowed the respondent to resign, appointing a successor guardian. However, disputes arose afterward, and landlord-tenant issues were litigated in the adult intervention proceedings. Overall, the respondent’s conduct violated her duty of competence, her duty to avoid conflicts of interest, and her duty not to interfere with the administration of justice.
The petition states:
“In aggravation, Respondent violated multiple Rules in probate matters involving incapacitated adult wards. In at least one instance, she acted in a way that would ultimately end up with her resigning as Guardian and being paid rent out of the funds of her former ward. The parties agree they are not aware of any additional aggravating factors outside of the conduct as it is described in this petition. Given these mitigating and aggravating factors, the parties submit that the agreed-upon sanction is appropriate.”
The petition continues:
“Wherefore, Respondent and Disciplinary Counsel request that the Executive Attorney assign a Hearing Committee to review the petition for negotiated discipline pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI. § 12.1(c).”
After carefully considering the petition for negotiated discipline, the Hearing Committee found that the respondent acknowledged and agreed to the facts, misconduct, and sanction in the petition. The respondent, sworn in, confirmed the facts and charges in the petition and denied being coerced or under duress to enter into this disposition. Therefore, the Hearing Committee recommended that the respondent be suspended.
The recommendation states:
“For the reasons stated above, it is the recommendation of this Hearing Committee that the negotiated discipline be approved and that the Court suspend Respondent for sixty days with thirty days stayed in favor of a one-year period of probation subject to the conditions discussed in paragraph 12(b) above.”
Ms. Antoine-Belton practices in Washington, District of Columbia, She is licensed in DC. Her info can be found on avvo.com.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.