August 6, 2007
Interpreting Rule 5.5(a)
An attorney who engaged in a pattern of lies and deceit in order to protect the assets of her parents from creditors was disbarred by the Court of Appeal of Maryland. An interesting aspect of the decision relates to the court majority's finding of a Rule 5.5(a) violation for practicing law in violation of the rules of a jurisdiction. The attorney was admitted in Maryland but not in Maryland's federal district court. The allegations of unauthorized practice involved drafting a pro se motion for her parents and a court appearance prior to being formally admitted in federal court.
A concurrence (joined by several judges) suggests that the rule is not violated when the lawyer offers advice regarding a federal case in a jurisdiction where the attorney is admitted to state practice: "...a lot of law is practiced in the corridors, lobbies and rest rooms in the courthouse." The rule has a geographical context, not one of dual sovereignty within a single state. The concurring judges would impose disbarment without the finding of a Rule 5.5(a) violation. (Mike Frisch)
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