Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I rarely encounter a bar discipline case that reflects a gross miscarriage of justice against the accused lawyer, but here's one.
The attorney had been trained as an engineer in Iran. He came to work in the United States and decided to stay due to political unrest in his home country. He went to law school at night and took and passed the Maryland and Pennsylvania bar examinations.
He opened his own practice and employed an associate attorney. He discovered that the associate had shortchanged a personal injury client, terminated the associate's employment, but allowed the associate to stay in his offices for about two months. The associate went to Maryland Bar Counsel and falsely reported that the attorney had misappropriated over $400,000. Rather than investigate the allegations, Bar Counsel obtained an ex parte injunctive order freezing all of the attorney's accounts: "The consequences which flowed from the Order included many lawsuits." The associate had removed records, thus impairing the attorney's ability to defend against ethics charges. Faced with the ruin of his ability to continue his practice, the attorney resigned from the Maryland bar and was reciprocally disbarred in Pennsylvania. He resumed his career as an engineer. The associate was never prosecuted.
"Despite a five year investigation, Maryland Bar Counsel found no deficiency in [the attorney's] accounts. Instead, it concluded that the remaining unreleased funds held in the frozen accounts belonged to [the attorney]." No criminal prosecution was ever brought despite referrals to state and federal authorities. The accounts were frozen for five years, and only terminated when the Maryland state court dismissed the injunctive action without prejudice.
Maryland reinstated the attorney seven years after his resignation. Pennsylvania reinstated him in August of this year. He is now of counsel to a highly-regarded Maryland law firm. "Despite [his] significant losses, his fortitude and belief in the American judicial system remains solid...[d]espite all adversity, [he] never lost hope that the truth would be revealed, which it eventually was." (Mike Frisch)