January 23, 2019
- Whether to accept PCC’s recommendation that attorney be disbarred.
The Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) filed a petition recommending the respondent, Craig N. Salomon, be disbarred. The Supreme Court ordered him disbarred.
The Attorney Discipline Office (ADO) received two complaints regarding the respondent. The first involved the 2009 divorce of Deborah Fogg, whom respondent represented, from George Fogg. A question arose about a conflict of interest in his representation of Ms. Fogg and another entity, Pan American Fund. Questions also arose about a mortgage Ms. Fogg had given him to secure his legal fees, which he subsequently assigned to Pan American Fund, including the amount of the debt secured by the property, whether the debt was properly secured by the property, and the ability to foreclose on the property.
The second complaint involved a 2014 matter regarding respondent’s representation of Blackport Investment Group, his representation of Dale Wood and violations of an injunction that had been issued by a Florida court.
The respondent argued there was insufficient evidence that he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, and that even if he had, an alternative sanction short of disbarment was appropriate.
Regarding the 2009 matter, the court found that the respondent violated Rule 1.7 when he represented both Ms. Fogg, who had interest in selling a property, and Pan American Fund, who had interest in buying the property. The court found the representation of both clients was a conflict despite respondent’s argument that his clients had parallel interests.
The court also found that the respondent violated Rule 3.1 when he initiated a foreclosure action, demanded excessive payoff and failed to provide documentation verifying the debt. The court did not accept respondent’s argument that he misunderstood the state of the mortgages and forgot to include a future advances clause.
The court also found that the respondent violated Rule 4.1 when he made false statements of material fact to Haase/Heirs, LLC and to Mr. Fogg, regarding the existence of a mortgage with a future advance clause.
The court also found that the respondent violated Rule 8.4, which provides that it is professional misconduct to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, or to engage in dishonest conduct or misrepresentation. The court concluded in violating Rule 4.1, respondent violated Rule 8.4.
Regarding the 2014 matter, the court found that the respondent violated Rule 1.2 when he assisted Wood in engaging in fraudulent conduct by knowingly violating a federal court injunction.
The court also found that the respondent violated Rule 1.4 by not communicating with Blackport regarding limitations that the injunction could have on his representation.
The court also found that the respondent violated Rule 1.15 when he received funds from the sale of a property and did not notify the interest holders in the property and did not keep the funds in escrow until proper instruction, but rather disbursed the funds to third parties, including himself.
The court also found that the respondent violated Rule 3.4 when he was aware of the preliminary injunction and helped Wood violate it.
The court found that the respondent necessarily violated Rule 8.4 because he violated the Rules above and acted in dishonest conduct.
The court considered the duties the respondent failed to undertake, the mental state of the respondent, and the harm or potential harm caused, and found the proper baseline sanction was disbarment. Given the lack of mitigating factors and the weight of the aggravating factors, the court found disbarment necessary to protect the public and preserve the integrity of the legal profession.
Elizabeth Murphy, assistant disciplinary counsel, for the attorney discipline office. Russel F. Hilliard, Upton & Hatfield, Portsmouth, for the respondent