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Lawyer accepts six-month suspension in deal with VSB

A Winchester lawyer facing six complaints from the Virginia State Bar has agreed to a six-month suspension for a series of legal ethics violations, including disobeying a judge’s ruling and filing a pleading while he was under a prior suspension order.

As part of an Aug. 17 agreement with the VSB, the bar dropped two of the six complaints against Phillip S. Griffin II and dismissed charges of deliberate dishonesty. The settlement avoids a VSB hearing set for Friday.

Griffin’s suspension is based in part on an Arlington lawsuit where a judge ordered Griffin to pay $6,800 in attorney’s fees for having his office file a pleading while his license was suspended, according to the VSB’s certification of charges. The judge ruled the lawsuit was a nullity. In a written statement to the VSB,  Griffin said he did not believe that having a staffer sign the mailing certificate on the client’s pleading was “the substantive practice of law.”

Griffin said the VSB approved the practice in an advisory legal ethics opinion that later was reversed.

The VSB accused Griffin of allowing another lawsuit to fail for lack of an order allowing an amended complaint. In a third matter, Griffin allegedly summoned a Fredericksburg woman to a Winchester court proceeding after agreeing that she was not the correct party to the lawsuit.

Griffin’s six-month suspension is effective Aug. 24.

Griffin made headlines in April when he sued the lawyer representing his ex-wife, former state Republican Party chair Kate Obenshain. Griffin alleged Harrisonburg attorney William Schmidheiser made false statements and committed other misconduct in the couple’s divorce proceedings.

In May, a Virginia Court of Appeals panel took to task both sides of the divorce case for the quality of their appellate briefs.

-By Peter Vieth

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