A Reston attorney accused of boorish behavior as he drunkenly attended a legal seminar now faces an additional license suspension that will not allow him to practice law in the state well into the next decade.
Wayne Richard Hartke of Hartke Law Offices (11890 Sunrise Valley Drive) did not appear in court for a client’s preliminary hearing on Aug. 6, 2016. When he was called from the courtroom, Hartke said he did not show up because he had not been paid. The judge told him his attendance was required regardless of whether he had been paid, to which Hartke responded that he was physically unable to come in.
Hartke later said that his home had been foreclosed upon in February 2016 and that the sheriff had removed all his active files, which led to him being unaware of the Aug. 6 hearing. However, investigation determined that the case had been entered in May, meaning the sheriff could not have removed the file.
The court found that Hartke had “obstructed and interrupted the administration of justice” and he was sentenced to 10 days in jail. In its ruling last month, the Virginia State Bar suspended his license to practice law for five years because of “a pattern of misconduct by [Hartke] during his many years of practice.”
That suspension won’t go into effect until Oct. 27, 2019, after a three-year suspension that was issued last October is served. The current suspension relates to charges that were brought upon Hartke by a Virginia State Bar panel a few months after alleged drunken and disruptive behavior at a Continuing Legal Education seminar in Tysons on Jan. 8, 2014.
According to the legal account of that day’s events:
[Hartke] was a walk in registrant to the above referenced CLE program and he arrived late.
During the morning session of the program, [Hartke] sat in the back of the room and shortly after arriving fell asleep and began snoring. [Hartke’s] snoring was so pronounced and loud that the site coordinator for Virginia CLE, Ms. Hope Linzer, was alerted and had to come in to the room to wake [Hartke] from a deep sleep. During the morning session, [Hartke’s] snoring was heard by numerous attendees and was disruptive of the class.
During the afternoon session of the program, [Hartke] moved to the front of the room and began loudly talking at the video screen. [Hartke’s] outbursts were disruptive to the class and once again Ms. Linzer was alerted to the situation by another attendee, G. Burke. Ms. Linzer entered the room and asked [Hartke] to refrain from disrupting the class in this fashion. Despite this, [Hartke] continued to talk loudly at the video screen.
Because [Hartke’s] outbursts continued, he was led from the room by one of the attendees, John Primeau, Esquire. Mr. Primeau would testify that the odor of alcohol emanated very strongly from [Hartke], that he was unsteady on his feet, and that [Hartke] admitted to Mr. Primeau that he had been drinking. Mr. Burke would testify that [Hartke] appeared to be intoxicated and that he smelled of alcohol. Mr. Burke would also testify that he personally observed a bottle of liquor amongst [Hartke’s] belongings which [Hartke] had left in the back of the room following the morning session.
In a written response to the Virginia State Bar, Hartke denied the allegations. In March 2015, however, Hartke’s license was suspended six months. He was also ordered to enroll in a two-year treatment and monitoring program, called Lawyers Helping Lawyers.
In September 2016, however, LHL’s clinical director reported Hartke had missed meetings, was not participating in a support group and was not providing required updates. Following this, the State Bar suspended Hartke’s license for three years.
The consecutive suspensions mean Hartke will not be eligible to practice law in Virginia again until October 2024.
According to Virginia Lawyers Weekly, Hartke was also reprimanded in 2010 and 2011. He served a 10-day jail sentence for contempt in 2009 after showing up with a blood-alcohol content of .127 as he was representing a client in Fairfax County General District Court.