September 3, 2008
Duty To Supervise
The Maryland Court of Appeals has indefinitely suspended the two managing partners of a Pennsylvania based law firm for failing to supervise a junior attorney assigned to an overwhelming number of cases involving automoblie warranty and "lemon law" issues. The lawyers had established a Maryland office and hired the inexperienced attorney, failing to provide adequate support and supervision. The attorneys may seek reinstatement after 90 days. The failure to supervise had resulted in the dismissal of 47 cases.
One particularly interesting aspect of this case is that neither of the disciplined lawyers has ever been admitted to practice in Maryland. Both are admitted in Pennsylvania and New York. One is admitted in Massachusetts; the other in New Jersey. They did not contest the jurisdiction of the Maryland court. As the order involves a period of suspension, each jurisdiction must now determine whether identical reciprocal discipline is appropriate. The resolution of that issue likely will have a much greater impact on the future of these lawyers than the Maryland action.
The court describes the firm's Maryland office as a "beachhead office" and determined the appropriate level of sanction "[w]hen matters ultimately went to Hades in a handbasket." So far as I was able to determine, the court did not cite any Seinfeld episodes in support of the result, although the one where George parks the cars and ruins the Woody Allen movie comes readily to mind.
This case is potentially significant in evaluating the nature and extent of the ethical duty to supervise new lawyers. (Mike Frisch)
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