June 10, 2009
Large Cushion Fails To Soften Fall
The Maryland Court of Appeals has disbarred an attorney for misconduct in his handling of advanced fees and the operation of his trust account. The attorney, who was admitted in 1975, had worked for a law firm prior to opening his own firm. He testified that he learned from the firm to keep a "large cushion" in the escrow account. Unfortunately, the cushion did not prevent overdrafts on his account. The hearing judge rejected the lawyer's contention that the defalcations were unintentional as a result of his professed lack of knowledge of trust obligations. The hearing judge also rejected proffered mitigation that the attorney had used speed to suppress his appetite in an ongoing battle to control his weight.
The court agreed that the misconduct was intentional and that mitigation had not been established. The court found that the conduct had involved dishonesty and merited the ultimate sanction. The court noted that the attorney had twice hired an accountant to reconcile the trust account and had discharged both prior to completion of the task. (Mike Frisch)
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