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After introducing us to foreclosure scammers, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals gifted us with another tale of malfeasance yesterday. This time: the case of Kim E. Hallmark, a crooked lawyer, permanently disbarred for an “offense involving moral turpitude.”
Over a period of two years in the early 1990s, Hallmark swindled a series of landlords and tenants out of a total $40,000, racking up eight misdemeanor charges for theft, fraud, and contempt of court. In one “typical” case from 2000, Hallmark leased an apartment on New Jersey Avenue, first tried to pay rent with a faulty check, and then paid for two months rent while occupying the place for ten months. In the mean time, while the owners tried to evict her, she sublet the apartment for two months—her subletters left upon realizing she wasn’t the landlord.
Hallmark will never practice law in the District again. But it wouldn’t have been hard to see this happen: in 2002, her legal license was suspended for 90 days for five acts of misconduct in the mid-90s (Hallmark passed the bar in 1993). It’s a sad series of screwups, whether intentional or merely incompetent: In one case, a correctional officer retained Hallmark to file a medical malpractice complaint, but Hallmark never did, and then just disappeared. In another, Hallmark agreed to represent a woman seeking to expunge a 1982 misdemeanor charge from her record, and then did not speak with her “client” for another year and a half, when they ran into each other on a streetcorner (the appeal was denied).
In a final case in 1996, Hallmark accepted a $1,000 fee to represent a client in a landlord-tenant dispute. She appeared in court one time before again disappearing, forcing her client to defend herself pro se before seeking new counsel. Because the client hadn’t told Hallmark of the switch, Hallmark showed up in court on the appointed date, but had nothing to do—and never returned the $1,000.
Makes you wish they had some kind of polygraph on the part of the bar exam that asks about ethics.