Friday, April 17, 2009

Credibility Findings Favor Lawyer

A 60 day suspension was imposed by the Maryland Court of Appeals in a disciplinary case involving three separate matters.

The court sustained the hearing judge's finding of no misconduct for the lawyer's failure to disclose two traffic tickets in his admissions application: "It is certainly feasible that one would have trouble remembering something as minor as these two tickets."

The court also sustained the hearing judge's finding of no misconduct in connection with an event that arose from a traffic stop at a sobriety check point. The officer confiscated the lawyer's drivers license after he smelled the odor of burning marijuana in the car and the lawyer had refused a breath test. The lawyer was taken into custody. He thereafter applied for a duplicate drivers license despite the fact that his license had been returned by the officer along with other documents. The lawyer explained (and the trial judge accepted) that he had been distracted by concern about his minor daughter, who was left alone while he was locked up, and had not inventoried the returned documents. He had not acted dishonestly in the process.

Before the Court of Appeals, Bar Counsel sought to overturn the above conclusions and have the lawyer disbarred. The court rejected Bar Counsel's exceptions based on its deference to the credibility findings made by the trial judge. The court sustained findings of misconduct relating to a series of expungement petitions that the lawyer filed on behalf of a client. The trial judge found that he had attempted to mislead a court after the clerk's office had thrice rejected the petitions as premature under the law. As to the misconduct, the trial court had been gentle with the lawyer, finding that the misconduct was "mitigated to some extent by his misunderstanding of the relevant case and statutory law." 

The court rejected the lawyer's contention that he was not given proper pleading notice of the charges relating to the expungement matter. (Mike Frisch)


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