Thursday, June 23, 2022

Georgia Supreme Court disbars attorney Sherri Washington, who also serves as a Rockdale County commissioner

By Alice Queen

Sherri Washington
CONYERS — The Georgia Supreme Court released an order Wednesday disbarring attorney Sherri Len Washington, who also serves as a member of the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners.

The disbarment appeared before the high court at the request of the state Disciplinary Review Board of the Georgia Bar Association, which recommended Washington be disbarred for multiple violations of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct in connection with three separate client matters. Washington was served with the formal complaint but did not respond, which is tantamount to admitting to the allegations of misconduct brought by the Disciplinary Review Board.

The Review Board appointed a special master in April 2021, who then presented its recommendation to the Supreme Court this spring. The Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous.

Washington, who was a general practice attorney, was first elected to the Rockdale Board of Commissioners in 2016 and won re-election in 2020. She was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 2007.

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Washington initially hired an attorney to represent her in the disbarment proceedings. The attorney filed objections and initiated a “late defense” before the Review Board, but later withdrew. Washington filed no further objections.

The Disciplinary Review Board found that in March 2017 Washington was retained to represent a woman in a divorce case. Washington failed to file the divorce quickly, as requested by her client, and failed to file a request for a protective order, also requested by the client. As a result, the client lost her health insurance coverage under her husband’s policy, was denied an equitable division of marital assets, denied alimony and required to pay her former husband $5,000 in attorney fees.

The court ruling further found that “Washington failed to keep her client advised of the status of the case, failed to respond to court notices, failed to exchange mandatory discovery, failed to attend the pretrial status conference, failed to provide the required domestic relations financial affidavit, failed to complete the consolidated pretrial order required by the court, failed to respond to requests from opposing counsel for this information, and failed to participate in a conference call with the court on the subject of outstanding discovery and the incomplete pretrial order. Eventually, the case was set for trial on Oct. 27, 2017, but neither Washington nor her client appeared for the court date. The trial court granted the divorce on terms which were very unfavorable to Washington’s client.”

During this time, Washington’s client was unaware of the status of her divorce case and only learned of the ruling against her on the clerk’s website.

Washington attempted to amend the situation by filing a motion to reconsider the divorce judgement. That motion was denied.

Furthermore, she told her client and the court that she had been sick on the evening the trial notice was sent to her. However, the evidence showed that her client had found pictures of her on Facebook attending a sorority function the night she claimed to be sick.

The client ultimately was awarded a malpractice judgement of more than $50,000 against Washington, but the judgement has not been paid.

In a second instance of misconduct, Washington accepted a fee of $515 from a client who had been convicted of child molestation in 2011 and re-sentenced in 2015. Washington was asked to pursue an appeal of the new sentence. However, she stopped communicating with her client and his family and the deadline to file the appeal expired. Washington did not return the fee.

In the third case of misconduct, Washington was hired by a woman to file suit against a contractor for insufficient work on her bathroom. The client paid Washington a retainer of $3,000.

Washington subsequently failed to take any action on behalf of her client, and the woman eventually sent Washington a certified letter asking for a refund. Washington reportedly refused to accept the certified letter and did not return the money until after the Bar Association began its investigation.

A lawyer who has been disbarred must immediately stop practicing law and notify clients of the discipline. A disbarred lawyer may not practice law again without going through the entire Bar admissions process, including taking and passing the bar exam.

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