The Pape Malick Indiss Djiba case is a fresh reminder to unsuspecting lawyers of the expanding jurisdiction of OED, including the ability of them to engage in reciprocal discipline, and the requirement for practitioners to self-report the imposition of discipline in other jurisdictions.
According to public advertisements, Mr. Djiba is a Texas attorney with phenomenal client reviews in the personal injury practice area, with statements that he also engages in business, contract, copyright, and insurance practices. So why did the USPTO discipline him? Well, a search of TESS records indicates that he has filed over 1,100 trademark applications before the USPTO—almost all appear to be affiliated with LegalZoom Legal Services, of Austin, Texas. While he may not hold himself out publicly as a trademark practitioner, the USPTO’s Final Order indicates that he is subject to their jurisdiction—likely by virtue of his filing trademark applications on behalf of what appear to be LegalZoom customers.
According to the USPTO’s Final Order, Mr. Djiba represented a client in a personal injury case before a Texas state court. After his client terminated their representation, Mr. Djiba settled the case without his client’s knowledge or consent. For his conduct, Mr. Djiba was disciplined by a “probated suspension” — essentially, the Texas Bar did not prohibit him from practicing law provided he engaged in no misconduct during his probation period.
Mr. Djiba was placed on probation starting December 15, 2020 through December 14, 2021, which he successfully completed. However, he never self-reported the Texas disciplinary decision to the USPTO’s Office of Enrollment and Discipline, as he was required to do so by 37 C.F.R. § 11.24(a). Nevertheless, the USPTO appears to have settled with Mr. Djiba, offering him a reprimand—rather than a reciprocal probated suspension.
This case teaches many things:
- The USPTO continuously uses external sources to monitor the discipline against practitioners (including those who may occasionally practice in trademark law).
- Even conduct in practice unrelated to the USPTO can result in the imposition of discipline by the USPTO.
- While the USPTO is required to reciprocally discipline practitioners under 37 C.F.R. § 11.24(a), sometimes they may engage in settlement, which can be beneficial to both sides.
- While failing to “self-report” can have consequences as its own separate claim for discipline, depending on the facts and circumstances, there may be no adverse consequences.
- How you conduct yourself during the OED’s investigation can have a huge impact on the outcome—either positive or negative. In this case, the OED Director essentially excused the failure to self-report because the practitioner was allegedly unaware of his self-reporting obligations to the USPTO, and he cooperated with the Office’s investigation.