Appeals court censures Suffolk attorney

Published 10:37 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Suffolk attorney was indefinitely disbarred from the Virginia Court of Appeals last month for repeated failures to comply with the court’s orders.

Anne Marston Lynch, who practices with the downtown firm of Pretlow & Pretlow, also was fined $1,000 for her actions, which resulted in her being found in contempt of court.

Lynch, who has practiced law in Virginia for more than eight years, filed a petition in March 2008, asking for leave to withdraw as court-appointed attorney in the case of a local man charged with criminal acts. In her filing, she said that she believed the man’s appeal was “without merit,” according to a press release from the Court of Appeals of Virginia.

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Later that month, the appellate court denied Lynch’s motion to withdraw as counsel, and it ordered Lynch to file an amended petition for appeal within 15 days. Lynch failed to do so.

In April 2008, the court issued another order, noting that Lynch had failed to respond to the first order. Appellate judges again ordered her to file an amended petition on behalf of her client. Again, Lynch failed to respond to the order.

In August 2008, the appellate court issued another order, removing Lynch from the man’s case and directing her to explain why she should not be held in contempt of court. Lynch did not respond to that order.

In October, a clerk at the appellate court telephoned Lynch to investigate her failure to comply with the three orders. In Lynch’s written response, faxed to the courthouse, she said that her failure to respond to the March and August orders was “simply due to negligence,” according to the press release. She said she did not recall receiving the April order.

Upon receiving that response, the appellate court issued an order for Lynch to appear in person in Richmond on Jan. 7 to explain her actions. Lynch did not appear in court on that day.

The next day, the chief judge of the appellate court issued an order for Lynch to appear on Jan. 13 to explain her actions. The Virginia State Police personally served Lynch with the order.

On Jan. 13, Lynch appeared before a three-judge panel of the appellate court in Chesapeake, apologizing for her “lack of professionalism” and saying that her caseload was too heavy.

Lynch was found in contempt of the appellate court. She was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, and she will not be able to practice in the appellate court for at least three years. She still can handle cases before local courts or the state Supreme Court.

In three years, Lynch can petition the court for reinstatement, if she completes continuing education courses in the areas of professionalism, appellate practice and time management, the court ruled.

Lynch did not return repeated calls to her office for comment.