Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Advanced Reciprocal Discipline

The Maryland Court of Appeals has entered an order disbarring an attorney as reciprocal discipline based on a recent opinion imposing that same sanction in the District of Columbia. The attorney had failed to respond to Maryland's order to show cause why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed.

Judge Harrell, joined by Judge Murphy, dissented:

That [the attorney] failed to respond...does not relieve this Court of its duty to engage in critical thought regarding what proper discipline is in this matter. Before imposing reciprocal discipline, this Court has a longstanding and independent duty to consider what discipline is appropriate,i.e., consistent with Maryland attorney discipline jurisprudence.

The dissenters contend that disbarment in D.C. was premised on a finding of "reckless" misappropriation, which is not recognized as a disbarable offense under Maryland disciplinary law. The dissenters would impose an indefinite suspension of no less than 18 months.

Usually, this works the other way. Maryland is tougher on dishonest lawyers than D.C. There are reciprocal cases where D.C. reduces a Maryland sanction and Maryland increases the sanction on attorneys admitted in both jurisdictions. (Mike Frisch)


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