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October 13, 2011 6:42 PM

D.C. Court Approves Censure for Ex-Am Law 100 Partner

Posted by Brian Baxter

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has approved a public censure for former Saul Ewing and Venable partner Sheryl Robinson Wood after she admitted to "intimate contact" with former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick while serving as a court-appointed monitor of the city's police department.

The ruling, which came Thursday in a per curiam opinion issued by a three-judge panel, reflects the court's approval of a recommendation issued in September by an ad hoc hearing committee of the D.C. Court of Appeals. (Hat Tip: Legal Profession Blog.)

As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, Wood acknowledged having the "intimate contact" with Kilpatrick while serving as police monitor from 2003 until 2009. Kilpatrick, who is facing his own myriad legal problems, has said separately in deposition testimony that he and Wood were intimate one night in early 2004.

The three-lawyer panel that recommended Wood receive a public censure—Ivins, Phillips & Baker managing partner Eric Fox, Sharp & Associates partner Stephen Grafman, and D.C. superior court attorney Janice Buie—took Wood to task for her behavior in a 12-page report on September 13.

But the committee also noted in its report that there was no evidence that Wood's work was influenced by her contact with Kilpatrick. Wood, the panel found, also had no prior record for disciplinary violations, leading to the recommendation that she receive the censure rather than the more severe punishments of suspension or disbarment. (Click here for the court's three-page opinion approving that recommendation, courtesy of the Legal Profession Blog.)

Wood is currently a solo practitioner at her own firm in D.C. called The Wood Law Firm, according to records on file with The District of Columbia Bar. A call to the firm seeking comment from Wood on her public censure was not immediately returned.

Last month, Detroit's City Council approved a $350,000 settlement with Saul Ewing and Venable over fees that Wood billed to the city during her time as police monitor. Wood's job involved issuing oversight reports in connection with two consent decrees with the Justice Department's civil rights division, which was probing Detroit's police department for misconduct and poor conditions in city jails.

Robert Warshaw, a former federal deputy drug czar, currently serves as Detroit's federally mandated police monitor. Warshaw has stated in quarterly reports filed in federal court in Detroit that Detroit's police department was making progress in reforming itself. The city has struggled with a surge in violent crime in recent years.

Detroit itself is still pursuing litigation against Wood individually and another of her former employers—risk consulting firm Kroll—in an effort to recoup $10 million in legal fees paid out in connection with her work as police monitor. Wood has turned to D.C.'s Schertler & Onorato to represent her in the suit, while Williams & Connolly and Detroit's Allard & Fish are advising Kroll.

The Motor City could probably use the money. According to a story this week in sibling publication The National Law Journal, K&L Gates has ceased its federal lobbying efforts on behalf of the city after over what the firm says are unpaid bills totaling almost $350,000.

 

RELATED STORIES:

Report: Ex-Am Law 100 Partner Accepts Censure, Regrets Moral Transgression, 9/22/11

Motor City Reaches Settlement With Two Firms Over Ex-Police Monitor, 9/15/11

Detroit Sues Ex-Venable, Saul Ewing Police Monitor for $10 Million, 6/15/11

Detroit Says Former Police Monitor, Not Her Ex-Firms, Should Return $10 Million, 11/30/11

Detroit Seeks Return of $10 Million in Fees for Police Monitor's Work, 11/10/10

Big Legal Bills Follow Disgraced Political Bigwigs, 7/19/10

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