A Washington, D.C., attorney has been arrested in Virginia and charged with felony fraud and with practicing law without a license after years of holding himself out as a special education expert. Attorney Howard D. Deiner was never licensed to practice law in Virginia, but that did not stop him from taking on numerous cases before school boards and courts in the state. Furthermore, bar records show that for three years in the mid-2000's, Deiner was not licensed as an attorney in Washington, D.C., due to his failure to pay his bar dues, and he once allegedly signed another attorney's name to documents that he prepared in order to submit them to a Virginia court. The D.C. bar has filed 74 disciplinary charges against Deiner on top of the civil charges pending in Virginia.
According to parents of children seeking special education, Deiner frequently assured them that he was qualified to represent them in detailed due process hearings and the complicated court battles that often follow a denial of benefits. He typically required a large up-front retainer from families in need of immediate assistance and then allegedly often ignored his clients' phone calls and emails. According to several former clients, Deiner was an ineffective advocate who often sat silently at meetings between parents and school officials. In one ruling, a hearing officer specifically cited Deiner's failure to call material witnesses that could have aided his clients' case.
In many cases, Deiner gained the sympathy and respect of potential clients by claiming to have a child with special needs. He advertised extensively, and listed himself on several well-known Web sites for families of children with special needs, including the Autism Society of America and the Center for Special Education Advocacy. According to an article in the Washington Post, Deiner is still listed on at least two Web sites for families with autism as a lawyer who might be consulted for help with school problems, and Diener is apparently still representing families in special education cases.
Some families have not taken Deiner's alleged misrepresentation lying down. In one case brought against him by former clients, a judge ordered Deiner to return his clients' attorneys fees and awarded the clients $100,000 in punitive damages.
To read the article in the Washington Post about Deiner's activities, click here.Article Last Modified: 04/26/2010
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