April 17, 2008
Email Leads To Reprimand
The Maryland Court of Appeals imposed a reprimand in a rather interesting matter involving an attorney who met a woman through an internet dating site. When she inquired if there was a way "to get around the requirement that the parties be separated one year in order to obtain a no-fault divorce," he replied by email: "You can file whatever you want so long as the parties say that it has been a year, the court won't question it so long as the parties agree to that." The woman had dinner with the lawyer two days later but never retained him. The email "could have given [her] the impression that intentionally misrepresenting information to the Court is acceptable so long as all parties involved set forth the same information." In an unrelated matter, a miscommunication about whether a lien had been recorded did not amount to an ethical violation based on a finding he did not intend to make a misrepresentation.
Bar Counsel had sought a suspension of at least two years. The court concluded that a more severe sanction for the email communication would be punitive as the recipient did not even remember it at the dinner and did not act on the advice. There is no indication that I can see as to how the email came to the attention of disciplinary authorities, as it appears that the recipient ignored it. (Mike Frisch)
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