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Del. Don Scott reprimanded by state bar for mishandling client fees

A person wearing a suit and smiling sits in front of the American and Virginia flags
Don Scott for Virginia
House Minority Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) was reprimanded by the Virginia State Bar on Monday.

The Virginia State Bar has publicly reprimanded Democratic Del. Don Scott for violating rules dictating attorney-fee agreements.

According to a filing from the bar, the issue began with a client in 2020, who paid Scott $20,000 in legal fees over four separate periods.

Scott — Virginia’s top Democrat in the House of Delegates — did not deposit the fees into his lawyer trust account, which is required for keeping client funds safe until it’s time to make withdrawals. He also did not keep proper records of the deposits.

While Scott’s actions violate The Virginia State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, his public reprimand is without terms, which means the disciplinary action does not limit his right to practice law.

According to the bar, Scott acknowledged that he was not in compliance and explained that he previously ran a solo practice, and did not have the staff or office management support to handle the financial accounting. He now works for Breit Biniazan, a personal injury firm in Portsmouth.

“This issue has been completely resolved with the First District Subcommittee of The Virginia State Bar,” Scott wrote in an email to VPM News. “I remain dedicated to the oath I took as a lawyer and am incredibly proud of the work I have done representing the people of Portsmouth. In no way does this affect my ability to practice law and serve the people of the Commonwealth.”

Carl Tobias, a law professor at University of Richmond, said public reprimands without terms are serious — but fairly common.

“[P]eople may not know that there’s a legal ethics opinion that they’ve run afoul of ... especially if you’re a solo practitioner,” he said.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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