Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Nichols, 121916 PASCDC, 2054-3

Docket Nº:2054 Disciplinary Docket 3
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM
Party Name:OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL, Petitioner v. LYNN MARIETTA NICHOLS, Respondent No. 49 DB 2014
Judge Panel:James C. Haggerty, Board Member
Case Date:December 19, 2016
Court:Court of Judicial Discipline of Pennsylvania
 
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OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL, Petitioner

v.

LYNN MARIETTA NICHOLS, Respondent

No. 2054 Disciplinary Docket No. 3

No. 49 DB 2014

Court of Judicial Discipline of Pennsylvania

December 19, 2016

Philadelphia Attorney Registration No. 64598.

ORDER

PER CURIAM

AND NOW, this 19th day of December, 2016, upon consideration of the Report and Recommendations of the Disciplinary Board, Lynn Marietta Nichols is suspended from the Bar of this Commonwealth for a period of thirty months, retroactive to July 17, 2014, and she shall comply with all the provisions of Pa.R.D.E. 217. Respondent shall pay costs to the Disciplinary Board pursuant to Pa.R.D.E. 208(g).

BEFORE THE DISCIPLINARY BOARD OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE DISCIPLINARY BOARD OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA TO THE HONORABLE CHIEF JUSTICE AND JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA:

Pursuant to Rule 208(d)(2)(iii) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ("Board") herewith submits its findings and recommendations to your Honorable Court with respect to the above-captioned Petition for Discipline.

I. HISTORY OF PROCEEDINGS

By Order dated July 17, 2014, the Supreme Court placed Lynn Marietta Nichols, Respondent, on temporary suspension pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Disciplinary Enforcement ("Pa.R.D.E.") 214(d)(2). On December 10, 2014, Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a Petition for Discipline against Respondent, charging her with professional misconduct arising from her criminal conviction for criminal mischief, a misdemeanor of the second degree. Respondent filed an Answer to Petition for Discipline on January 28, 2015.

A prehearing conference was held on April 1, 2015, and a disciplinary hearing was held on June 28, 2015, September 17, 2015, and November 5, 2015, before a District I Hearing Committee comprised of Chair A. Elizabeth Balakhani, Esquire and Members Thomas H. Chiacchio, Jr., Esquire and Karen S. Kelly, Esquire. Petitioner presented the testimony of three witnesses. Respondent presented the testimony of seven witnesses and testified on her own behalf. Both parties submitted exhibits.

Following the submission of briefs by the parties, the Hearing Committee filed a Report on May 3, 2016, concluding that Respondent violated the Rules as charged in the Petition for Discipline and recommending that she be suspended for a period of four years, retroactive to July 17, 2014, the date of the temporary suspension. Further, the Committee recommended that Respondent serve a two year period of probation following her reinstatement to the practice of law.

On May 23, 2016, Respondent filed a Brief on Exceptions and requested oral argument before the Disciplinary Board.

On June 8, 2016, Petitioner filed a Brief Opposing Exceptions. Oral argument was held before a three-member panel of the Disciplinary Board on July 11, 2016.

The Board adjudicated this matter at the meeting on July 23, 2016.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

The Board makes the following findings:

1. Petitioner, whose principal office is located at Pennsylvania Judicial Center, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 2700, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17106, is invested, pursuant to Rule 207 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement ("Pa.R.D.E")., with the power and duty to investigate all matters involving alleged misconduct of any attorney admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to prosecute all disciplinary proceedings brought in accordance with the various provisions of said Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement.

2. Respondent, Lynn Marietta Nichols, was admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1992. Upon graduation from law school in 1991, Respondent was hired by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, where she was employed for twenty-two years. At all times relevant, Respondent was the Assistant Chief of Homicide and maintained an office address at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Three Penn Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 18107.

3. Respondent is subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

4. Respondent has no record of prior discipline in Pennsylvania.

5. By Order dated July 17, 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court placed Respondent on temporary suspension.

6. In April 2012, Respondent met Joselyn Herron ("Herron") when he began performing landscape work for her. NT. 6/18/15 at 263.

7. Between October and November 2012, Respondent and Herron began a romantic relationship. Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") -3.

8. In October 2012, Herron informed Respondent that his former girlfriend, Nicole Chandler ("Chandler") had reported to the Philadelphia Police Department a 2005 Ford F-150 ("Ford"), which was titled in Chandler's name only, as having been stolen in August 2011. Herron informed Respondent that he was in possession of the Ford. Petition for Discipline ("PRD") - 8, Answer ("Ans.") - 8.

9. In or about October 2012, Respondent contacted Detective Nicholas Via ("Via") of the Philadelphia Police Department, whom she had known professionally for approximately fourteen years. Respondent inquired about the procedure for removing a truck from stolen status, and requested that Via meet with Herron to discuss the Ford. N.T. 9/17/15 at 77.

10. Respondent's purpose in making the call to Via was to have him remove the Ford from stolen status. N.T. 6/18/15 at 71.

11. Respondent told Via that Herron was a friend of the family and her landscaper and that Herron needed the Ford taken out of stolen status to have his name put on the title. N.T. 6/18/15 at 72, 81.

12. Via met with Herron and reviewed the paperwork involving the Ford. The paperwork presented by Herron lacked a court order to transfer the Ford's title to Herron. N.T. 6/18/15 at 72-73, 93-94.

13. Via contacted Respondent, who informed Via that Herron had an agreement with Chandler and had a court order to have the title changed and Respondent could verify that the court order existed. N.T. 6/18/15 at 72, 73, 81

14. Subsequently, Via removed the Ford from stolen status. He did so based on Respondent's position in the District Attorney's Office and his long-standing relationship with Respondent. N.T. 6/18/15 at 106-107.

15. In early August 2013, Respondent discovered that Herron was involved in a romantic relationship with another woman while he was involved with Respondent. NT. 6/18/15 at 273-275.

16. In early August 2013, Respondent called Via and asked him to put the Ford back into stolen status. Via refused. NT. 6/18/15 at 74-75.

17. In early August 2013, Respondent obtained Chandler's telephone number. NT. 6/18/15 at 273-275.

18. On August 27, 2013, Respondent contacted Chandler and told her that Respondent knew where the Ford was located. NT. 9/17/15 at 157-158.

19. Respondent told Chandler that she knew the Ford was stolen because Respondent had taken the Ford out of stolen status the previous year. NT. 9/17/15 at 158.

20. Respondent told Chandler that Respondent tried to have the Ford put back into stolen status but the detective who had taken it out of that status said that he could not put it back in because it would raise questions, and a new report would have to be made. NT. 9/17/15 at 67-69, 159.

21. Respondent told Chandler that she would come to Chandler's house and make a new stolen vehicle report. NT. 9/17/15 at 159.

22. Respondent met with Chandler at Chandler's house on August 27, 2013, and the two women...

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