Thursday, December 6, 2007

"An Unappreciated Gad Fly"

A very interesting bar discipine case was decided today by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The attorney is admitted only in Maryland and has never practiced law. He is employed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. He was suspended without pay from his job for 14 days and initiated proceedings that led to an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board("MSPB"). He came to believe that the judge and some witnesses had violated attorney ethical rules and considered his own duty to report such misconduct. Part of the disciplinary case involved his dealings with D.C. Bar Counsel.

He made a series of phone calls to the MSPB during which he concealed his identity and suggested that he was calling "on behalf" of D.C. Bar Counsel (in fact, he had no such authority). The calls were intended to discover the bar membership of the judge, who is admitted in California but not D.C. He also filed three complaints with D.C. Bar Counsel, which could not proceed as none of the persons complained about are licensed in that jurisdiction.

Disciplinary charges were brought in Maryland, alleging violations of Rules 3.3 and 8.4. The trial court rejected the 3.3 charge, holding that the calls concealing his identity did not violate that rule. The bar information is public and "[t]he use of pseudonyms by the Respondent did nothing to mislead the call recipients to their detriment." The attorney violated Rule 8.4 in his "apparent attempt to invoke the authority of the Office of Bar Counsel while dealing with various people at the MPSB." The trial court characterized the attorney as "an intelligent career civil servant who has an inflated view of his role...an unappreciated gad fly."

The court affirmed the trial court's legal conclusions and rejected Maryland Bar Counsel's recommendation of disbarment. Reprimand was imposed.  (Mike Frisch)

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