Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sixth Sanction Is Disbarment

An attorney who has been suspended since 2002 as a result of his fifth disciplinary sanction was disbarred  by the Maryland Court of Appeals. After his former wife had passed away in 2005, a will was located and admitted to probate. The estate's attorney discovered a trust fund worth almost $100,000 that had been held by the attorney and the ex-wife as tenants by the entireties. By law, the account was coverted to tenants in common by the couples 1985 divorce. After being contacted by the estate's attorney regarding the fund, the attorney had the account retitled in his sole name. His explanation that he did not understand the consequences of such a transfer was rejected: "Having been an attorney for more than 40 years, it is more than likely that [he] had a basic knowledge of property law when he transferred the Fund to himself." However, no intent to defraud was found; rather his intent was to retain control rather than to cheat the estate. The funds were not depleted or otherwise misused. However, the court majority found that he had made misrepresentations to disciplinary authorities. Both majority and dissent opinions found disbarment appropriate given the prior disciplinary history. (Mike Frisch)


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