In re Petition for Reinstatement Ditrapano, No. 12-0677

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtWORKMAN
Docket NumberNo. 12-0677
PartiesIn Re: Petition for Reinstatement of L. Dante DiTrapano
Decision Date19 June 2014

In Re: Petition for Reinstatement of L. Dante DiTrapano

No. 12-0677

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

FIELD: June 19, 2014

WORKMAN, Justice, concurring, with Loughry, Justice, joining:

I concur with the majority's refusal to reinstate Mr. DiTrapano's law license at this time. Mr. DiTrapano has made great progress in remedying his very significant substance abuse issues, and from a rehabilitative perspective, he has developed an impressive record. Upon a thorough examination of the record before this Court, however, I am very concerned with the issue of honesty and integrity. The level of Mr. DiTrapano's blatant dishonesty directly impacting an attorney/client relationship1 is profoundly disturbing, but I am even more concerned with whether he has truly accepted responsibility for that conduct. While Mr. DiTrapano asserts that he does accept full responsibility and that he is remorseful for such conduct, some of the statements in the proceedings below and in his brief to this Court suggest that such acceptance of responsibility is disingenuous.

With regard to the loan document forgery, Mr. DiTrapano pled guilty to federal

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felony charges based upon his misrepresentations to the United Bank in Charleston in an attempt to secure a loan and his forgery of the client's signature on those documents. He transferred approximately $40,000 for his own personal use. During the ODC hearing, Mr. DiTrapano addressed the issue of forging loan documents and said: "it has always stood in my mind that there was a certain amount of money that I had coming to me. . . . There probably was some reason, you know, that I put the $35,000 in that account that didn't have to do with, you know, I was just trying to take it for myself. I don't know what that is during that period of time."

The facts surrounding the misappropriation of client funds from a Smith Barney brokerage account and the law firm's subsequent payment of $1.4 million to the client are not extensively developed in the record.2 In the Lawyer Disciplinary Board Reinstatement Questionnaire, Mr. DiTrapano indicated that his former firm paid his client "a substantial amount of money that [he] was responsible for misappropriating." He also admitted in the Questionnaire that he "[d]id not act professionally in [the] handling of [the client's] Brokerage accounts."

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In the ODC hearing, however, Mr. DiTrapano explained that the money "may have been misappropriated or may not have been." He further indicated that he did not have "any real recollection as to exactly what some of those moneys went for in terms of, you know, what was misappropriated and what was not." He stated:

I was ousted from the law firm and the law firm never allowed me any kind of accounting on anything. I know that they wanted to maintain the relationship with the client, so they agreed to reimburse anything that was, you know, no - - unaccountable for, and they did that. It was taken out of whatever, you know, part of the firm I still had left or cases there, and then it was charged to me as income. And that's the extent to which I know about any of that.3

Mr. DiTrapano emphasized that the United States Attorney's Office "had all of that . . . and they did not charge me with anything and they would've charged me with some kind of crime or some kind of addition to my sentence if they felt like that anything was wrong with that." The accountant for the former law firm apparently provided the financial calculations in determining the amount to be reimbursed to the client. It is disconcerting that after accepting responsibility for misconduct, Mr. DiTrapano then suggests that if there was wrongdoing, the federal authorities would have charged him and that he may or may not have misappropriated such funds. Further, he certainly could have sought further information on

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the nature of the reimbursements to the client from funds...

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