June 18, 2009
Better To Be Negligent
The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed a finding that a lawyer's misappropriation had been negligent rather than intentional and, as a result, imposed an indefinite suspension rather than disbarment. The court also affirmed findings of misconduct that stemmed from a loan made from the lawyer to his client, but found that the improper transaction was mitigated by the client's need for the funds.
In a second matter, the court disbarred an attorney who had a radio show on real estate law for several years. The lawyer had received a check payable only to the clients, endorsed their names without advising them of the receipt of the check and deposited the check in his operating account. The court found commingling and misappropriation among other violations. A dissent would impose suspension based on the lawyer's unblemished record since his 1976 admission and a supplemental finding that the trial judge "no longer observes what the court initially felt represented a cavalier attitude. This court is certainly no longer disheartened by the present actions of the [lawyer]."
As we have pointed out before, it is better for the lawyer to be found negligent than reckless or intentional in the mishandling of client funds, as negligence invariably draws a lesser sanction. (Mike Frisch)
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