Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Contingent Fee Illegal For Lobbying Activities

The conduct of a prominent Maryland lawyer/lobbyist is the subject of an opinion issued today by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The seven judges who participated in the decision included five retired, specially assigned judges. The majority opinion quotes a famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, suggesting that the various judges "have here..a failure to [completely agree on reasoning]." The issue in the case involves sanctions imposed by the State Ethics Commission as a result of a prohibited contingency fee for lobbying activities. Although "Maryland law has long prohibited contingency fees for lobbying," there were no sanctions for a violation until the General Assembly adopted legislation effective November 1, 2001. While the fee arrangement was reduced to writing prior to that date, the services continued after. The majority rejected the claim that the statute had been improperly applied retroactively. However, the matter was remanded based on the majority's conclusion that the ethics commission had missapplied the missing-witness rule.

Disclosure: I handled the D.C. disbarment of this lawyer based on his conviction for mail fraud. (Mike Frisch)

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