An attorney who allegedly misappropriated client funds was disbarred in D.C. Thursday after the court held that his misconduct was considered reckless, and not merely negligent.
Billy Ponds was accused of misappropriating funds from two separate clients, including Joseph Young, who hired Ponds to represent him in the early stages of a criminal matter. Ponds allegedly failed to treat an unearned flat fee as client property belonging to Young, court records show.
A hearing committee ultimately found that Ponds’ fee agreement had failed to provide the informed consent necessary in order to treat the flat fee as his own funds. It said the misconduct was reckless, and recommended Ponds’ disbarment.
The Board on Professional Responsibility found that the misconduct was negligent, not reckless, and recommended suspension.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals agreed with the hearing committee that Ponds’ misappropriation “was at a minimum reckless.” The appeals court noted that the flat-fee agreement at issue wasn’t compatible with current precedent.
“Rather than making clear that the unearned portion of a flat fee must be returned, the fee agreement indicated precisely the opposite,” the panel wrote in its opinion. “Rather than complying with the requirement to return unearned advance fees, Mr. Ponds refused, despite an arbitral award requiring him to comply.”
A representative for Ponds declined to comment on Thursday.
Ponds is represented by Coburn & Greenbaum.
The case is In re Ponds, D.C. Ct. App., No. 19-BG-555, 8/4/22.