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Murray agrees to 5-year bar suspension in wake of sanctions payment

VSBMatthew B. Murray of Charlottesville has accepted a five-year suspension of his law license to resolve discipline charges arising from a contentious trial and a record-breaking verdict in 2010, according to the Virginia State Bar.

The misconduct charges focused on Murray’s efforts both to cleanse his client’s embarrassing Facebook profile and – later – to deflect blame for hiding the Facebook evidence.

Murray this year paid off nearly $600,000 in sanctions awarded to his opponent in the lawsuit over the 2007 death of Jessica Lester, a nursing student killed in a collision involving a concrete truck. The 2010 trial produced a $10.6-million jury award reinstated in January by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

A VSB disciplinary subcommittee in June certified misconduct charges against Murray based on a series of events set in motion when a defense lawyer discovered the Facebook page belonging to Isaiah Lester, Jessica’s husband.

Isaiah had posted photographs showing him partying with friends. In one, he held a beer and wore a t-shirt that read, “I love hot moms.”

In an email, Murray directed Isaiah to deep-six the party pictures. Murray later sought to keep that email from the judge’s scrutiny, despite an order compelling disclosure of all communications with the client.

Murray also accused the defense lawyer of “hacking” into Isaiah’s Facebook account, even though it was Isaiah who opened the door by sending a Facebook message to the defense lawyers, according to the VSB misconduct charges.

In an agreed disposition, Murray accepted a five-year suspension effective July 17, according to the clerk’s office at the VSB.

Murray has said that he has given up law practice. “I do not intend to resume the practice of law,” he said July 8. Nevertheless, Murray retained an associate bar license and was in good standing with the VSB until the suspension.

The 2011 order by Circuit Judge Edward L. Hogshire directing Murray personally to pay $542,000 in sanctions was a record penalty for attorney misconduct at the time. The award was eclipsed by a June 14 decision by Fairfax Judge Jonathan C. Thacher to impose an $878,000 joint-and-several judgment against Vienna lawyer Stephen C. Glassman and his client in a divorce-spawned contract case.

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