By Stefanie Jackson – Eastville attorney Paul Watson has consented to the Virginia State Bar revoking his license to practice law, according to a Feb. 28 press release.
By his consent, Watson acknowledged that allegations of his misconduct as an attorney were true, the state bar said.
In his affidavit consenting to the revocation, Watson referred to a complaint against him filed by Donna L. Grant in spring 2019, two years after she hired him to file a bankruptcy petition on her behalf.
Grant paid $1,300 in advance for Watson to represent her. He admitted in the affidavit that he did not deposit the money into a trust but “converted those funds for my personal use.”
Furthermore, Watson neither filed the bankruptcy petition for Grant nor “otherwise diligently pursued her matter,” and “also failed to respond to Mrs. Grant’s numerous attempts” to contact him.
The bar suspended Watson’s license to practice law Sept. 27, 2019, for two years. Barely four months later, he had consented to the state bar taking the next step and revoking his license, “because I know that if the disciplinary proceedings based on the alleged misconduct were brought or prosecuted to a conclusion, I could not successfully defend them,” the affidavit discloses.
Effective Feb. 10, Paul Granville Watson IV was stricken from the roll, and he may no longer practice law in Virginia.
Grant was not the only client who has complained about Watson’s performance as an attorney.
Elaine Baseman, who was awarded $25,000 in an Accomack civil case, had an experience similar to Grant’s, according to the bar’s investigations that led to Watson’s 2019 suspension.
Watson advised Baseman “to pursue the partition and sale of real estate she owned jointly with one of the judgment debtors” to obtain the $25,000 she was owed. He agreed to pursue the matter on her behalf for $1,500, which she paid in advance in July 2017.
A month later, Watson told her a hearing was scheduled for Oct. 2, 2017. Baseman attempted unsuccessfully to contact Watson for advice on preparing for the hearing, and when she reported to the courthouse on the given date, the hearing did not occur.
For three months, Baseman kept trying to contact Watson, without success. She learned from the court that he had never filed her petition.
Baseman filed a complaint with the state bar in January 2018. After Watson was referred for a formal investigation, he filed Baseman’s petition, but she was no longer interested in pursuing the matter and requested a refund.
Watson refunded the money in June 2018. He told the state bar the money had been kept in a trust the entire time, even though an investigative committee said Watson had “disbursed at least $1,431.69 of Ms. Baseman’s advance fee monies out of the trust to himself and/or his law firm for his personal use and benefit.”
The committee asked to see Watson’s “entire file” regarding his representation of Baseman, with a deadline of March 20, 2018. He responded, but documents were missing, such as paper and electronic bank account records, bank statements, canceled checks, cash receipts, and deposit tickets.
The bar’s investigator asked for the documents Aug. 2, 2018. By October, the bar still had not received all the requested documents. It issued Watson a notice of noncompliance and request for interim suspension Oct. 18, 2018.
A week later, Watson admitted in an email that “he did not have any further trust account documents to produce.”
Others have made complaints that Watson failed to file paperwork, communicate with clients, or show up to represent them.
The state bar website listed six disciplinary actions taken against Watson between 2007 and 2009, and his license was suspended for 60 days in 2010.
Watson served as a Virginia attorney for nearly 20 years.