Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The Maryland Court of Appeals has imposed an indefinite suspension of an attorney who entered into a settlement agreement on behalf of a longtime client without the client's knowledge or consent.
The case involved a civil citation against the client for alleged code violations on boathouses and piers on his property.
The matter had been continued once. At the second scheduled hearing, the attorney was unprepared to proceed and believed that the judge would not continue the matter. The client was not present. The attorney twice left the room to give the impression that he was consulting with the client. He was not. He then agreed to a consent order that required payment of a fine and other conditions. He did not promptly inform the client.
The attorney paid the fine with his own cashier's check. He told the client about the consent order in response to an inquiry. The client kept him as attorney at the time but eventually replaced him.
Bar Counsel sought disbarment. At oral argument before the court, the parties agreed that the trial judge had not made findings regarding remorse. As a result, the matter was remanded for a remorse inquiry.
On remand, the trial judge found that the attorney had "a modicum of remorse." The court defined the term as a moderate or small amount. (Mike Frisch)