On Thursday, July 27, 2023, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals disbarred attorney Anitha W. Johnson for multiple violations of professional conduct rules, spanning six different matters with five clients over a period of several years.

The case is entitled “In the matter of Anitha W. Johnson” with case no. 20-BG-600.

The charges cited DC Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1(a) and (b), 1.2(a), 1.3(a), 1.3(b)(1) and (2), 1.3(c), 1.4(a), 1.4(b), 1.4(c), 1.5(a), 1.5(b), 1.5(c), 1.6(a)(1), 1.15(a), 1.15(c), 1.16 (d), 3.4(c), 8.4(c) and 8.4(d). 

A report and recommendation of the ad hoc hearing committee, dated October 22, 2019, stated that Johnson had been charged in a five-count specification of charges. The case involved multiple violations of professional conduct rules, spanning six different matters with five clients over a period of several years. The attorney’s conduct included instances of dishonesty, negligence, and abandonment of clients, resulting in significant harm to them. The committee emphasized the seriousness of the attorney’s misconduct, especially her repeated and flagrant dishonesty, which was considered a fundamental breach of trust. Despite the possibility of a multi-year suspension, the committee unanimously recommended disbarment due to the attorney’s lack of character and disregard for ethical obligations.

Following such recommendations, the Board on Professional Responsibility agreed with the Ad Hoc Hearing Committee’s report. According to the board, Johnson’s extensive history of pervasive deceitful behavior had extended from 2007 to 2014. Moreover, her misleading and dishonest actions involving the Disciplinary Counsel persisted until 2018 and 2019, compounded by her repeated false testimony during the hearing. Additionally, her lack of remorse for her wrongdoing and her tendency to shift blame onto her clients were further exacerbating factors, reminiscent of the “additional hallmarks of flagrant dishonesty” observed in the Bynum case, comprehensively outlined.

The report and recommendation from the Board states:

“As described below, we have determined also that the evidence is clear and convincing that Respondent testified falsely in several respects during the 2019 hearing. In addition, Respondent’s flagrant dishonesty and indifference toward her clients covered an extensive seven-year period from 2007 to 2014. As stated by the unanimous Hearing Committee, Respondent “always defaulted to the dishonest course of action,” and the repeated misconduct shows that she “lacks the fundamental character necessary to practice law in compliance with the Rules.”

According to the DC Court of Appeal, since the factual findings of the committee and board are substantiated by ample evidence, they are obligated to endorse their conclusions. Upon its own careful examination of the Board’s legal determinations, the DC Court of Appeals affirmed its alignment with established legal precedent. In light of the recurrence and severity of Ms. Johnson’s breaches of professional conduct rules, and given that disbarment is in line with the previous rulings on cases involving evident dishonesty, the DC Court of Appeals concurred with the board’s suggestion.

The Disposition states:

“Accordingly, it is ordered that Ms. Johnson is disbarred from the practice of law in the District of Columbia. For purposes of reinstatement, the effective date of Ms.Johnson’sdisbarment will not begin to run until she files an affidavit that complies with D.C. Bar Rule XI, §14(g).”

Ms. Johnson was licensed in the District of Columbia with license no. 495672.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.