A rookie lawyer convicted of driving under the influence three times in a year – and twice in three days last October – can regain his law license after only a year.
A jail term endured by Gordon B. Jones of Falls Church was the wake-up call needed to get him “back on the right path,” his attorney argued.
A panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board accepted the proposed one-year suspension only after members insisted on an extended term of monitoring by the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program and a specific alternative sanction for noncompliance.
Because the board agreed Dec. 2 that the suspension would be effective as of July 6, 2020, Jones will be eligible to practice again in July of next year. Jones was administratively suspended July 6 under VSB procedures for attorneys convicted of a defined “crime” under VSB rules.
Jones followed an unusual path to membership in the bar, according to the account of his lawyer, Mary Morgan of Richmond. He graduated from the College of William & Mary in 1985 with a degree in computer science, specializing in internet technology. He owned a successful business providing internet software for government agencies.
Jones decided to become a lawyer to “interact more with individuals,” Morgan said. “He wanted to help people,” she said. He read the law with Williamsburg’s George Brooks III and passed the bar.
Licensed in 2018, Jones was hampered by a lack of maturity and the stresses of law practice, Morgan said. “The practice of law is demanding and frustrating and it can drive people to make very poor decisions. And that’s exactly what happened to Mr. Jones,” Morgan said.
A girlfriend introduced Jones to illicit substances, Morgan said. He was arrested in Hanover County Oct. 12, 2018, and charged with hit-and-run, possession of fentanyl, refusal of screening and a traffic violation. He did a short time in jail, Morgan said.
“Quite frankly, that short stint in jail was not long enough to make an impact on him,” Morgan told the board members.
A year later, two incidents within three days in York and Hanover counties led to convictions and about six months in jail. In both incidents, Jones was found to have a mixture of opioids, cocaine and other illegal narcotics in his system, according to the agreed disposition filed with the VSB.
“It was that experience that provided the needed wake-up call for Mr, Jones,” Morgan said. He became a model citizen and has “remained on a very straight and narrow path,” she told the VSB panel.
Screening has shown Jones remained clean in jail and after his release, Morgan said. “We’re not dealing with a situation where there was any client harm,” Morgan said. No bar complaint was filed – the VSB proceeding was prompted by the Hanover County felony conviction in March.
“The record does support that he’s taking ownership of his lapses,” said Assistant Bar Counsel Paulo Franco.
The VSB Disciplinary Board panel accepted the one-year suspension after the parties agreed to a longer monitoring period by JLAP and a specific alternative sanction of a four-year suspension if Jones does not abide by the terms of the disposition, including abstinence from alcohol and other intoxicating substances.