Legal Ethics

Adviser on Foreign Law Disciplined by D.C. Court

Jan. 4, 2019, 4:14 PM

A man will lose his District of Columbia license to advise clients on the law of Sudan after violating five rules of professional conduct, the district’s high court ruled.

How the rules and disciplinary guidelines apply to special legal consultants, who aren’t licensed to practice law in the U.S., presented novel questions. The specialty is for people who are licensed in other countries.

Ahmed M. Elhillali falsely represented himself as an attorney and formally entered appearances in immigration cases at least 10 times, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals said. In a Jan. 3 opinion it adopted the recommendation of the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility that Elhillali’s special legal consultant license be revoked for five years.

He may reapply after that period, and may regain his license if he pays restitution and proves his fitness to practice, the court said.

Elhillali violated D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4 (b) (failure to explain matter), 1.16 (d) (termination of representation), 5.5 (a) (unauthorized practice of law), 8.4 (b) (committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer’s fitness—theft in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3211 ), and 8.4 (c) (dishonesty), the Hearing Committee and Board found.

Elhillali falsely testified before the Hearing Committee, among other transgressions, the court said.

Special legal consultants must follow the professional conduct rules, and the Board has the authority to discipline them, the court held.

The appropriate discipline is a similar sanction to an attorney’s, the court said. The conduct here would warrant disbarment for an attorney, it said. The most severe sanction for a special legal consultant is revocation of his or her license, the court said.

Revocation isn’t permanent, the court said. Just as a disbarred attorney may seek readmission after five years, a special legal consultant may reapply for a license after that time period, it said.

The case is In re Elhillali, 2019 BL 1042, D.C., No. 17-BG-1430, 1/3/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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