Public defender admonished

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Suffolk’s top public defender has received an admonition from the Virginia State Bar for failing to communicate with a client about her appeal.

The First District Subcommittee of the Virginia State Bar issued the admonition earlier this month against James Lawrence Grandfield, who has worked in Suffolk’s Office of the Public Defender since 2008.

“I fell short of the high standards we set for ourselves,” Grandfield said Wednesday in a phone interview. “After 22 years in practice, there’s always room for improvement.”

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The state bar can issue a range of disciplines, from a private reprimand for less serious violations up to suspending or revoking a lawyer’s license for more serious violations.

According to a five-page document from the Virginia State Bar, Grandfield was appointed to represent a woman on an appeal from convictions for forgery, uttering and obtaining money by false pretenses.

She was sentenced in May 2014, and Grandfield filed an appeal in September of that year. The appeal was denied in December 2014, but the woman said she was never notified her appeal was denied.

The woman also said Grandfield did not file a further appeal and did not return multiple phone calls and emails from her or her family. She didn’t find out her appeal was denied until January 2016, when she wrote to the Court of Appeals herself.

Grandfield, according to the document, admitted he did not inform his client the appeal had been denied and did not file further appeals on her behalf. He also realized he had provided an incorrect email address to the Court of Appeals and that was why he did not receive the order denying the appeal.

Grandfield told the state bar that he has implemented a “tickler system” to periodically check the status of cases as a result of this case.

Grandfield will have to complete eight hours of continuing legal education credits in the areas of appellate practice and criminal law ethics, in addition to the standard annual requirement. The matter will be closed when he does so.

Grandfield has no prior public disciplinary history, according to the Virginia State Bar.

“I’ve accepted the bar’s decision and learned from this and hope it makes me do better moving forward,” Grandfield said.