A once-prominent Philadelphia African American lawyer has been disbarred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after failing to respond to professional and ethical complaints.
The action, which takes effect Feb. 28 and strips Willie Lee Nattiel Jr. of his law license, was published Thursday by the court.
The 23-page opinion lists 10 charges against Nattiel, most involving mishandling client funds and failures to appear for meetings and court hearings of people he had agreed to represent. Nattiel, 55, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Philadelphia lawyer Michael Coard, who worked with Nattiel on several cases, Friday called the disbarment "aberrational," and said Nattiel had been combating serious health problems: two heart attacks and stent implants, neurological problems resulting from concussions received playing college football, and continuing depression.
Coard said Nattiel had also been dealing with the emotional aftermath of the rape of a relative.
"For 24 or 25 years, he had an excellent reputation among lawyers, black, white, and female, and even among many prosecutors," Coard said.
According to the opinion, Nattiel was temporarily suspended Sept. 28, 2012, and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a petition for discipline May 1, 2013.
Though served with disciplinary notices at his office at 747 E. Woodlawn St. in East Germantown, Nattiel did not respond to the petition and did not appear at a hearing last Feb. 12. The hearing committee recommended disbarment last June and the Disciplinary Board approved the recommendation July 26.
A graduate of Wake Forest University law school, Nattiel was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1988. He became active in issues involving African Amricans and the justice system, and was a mentor to young black lawyers.