Thursday, June 19, 2014
The Maryland Court of Appeals has reprimanded two lawyers in connection with the robo-signing of a large number of foreclosure-related documents.
One lawyer failed to properly supervise the other as managing partner of the law firm
Here, clear and convincing evidence supports the hearing judge’s conclusion that Burson had violated MLRPC 5.1(a). Prior to Burson’s discovery of McDowell’s and Savage’s conduct, two other lawyers at the Shapiro Firm signed each other’s names on foreclosure-related documents and were the subjects of show cause orders in various circuit courts as a result of the practice. As the Shapiro Firm’s managing partner, Burson was aware that circuit courts issued show cause orders regarding the two lawyers’ signing of documents. The hearing judge found that, despite being aware of the "prior incident," before learning that McDowell had signed trustee’s deeds and affidavits on Savage’s behalf, Burson made no efforts to ensure that the Shapiro Firm had in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that lawyers did not robo-sign documents. McDowell signed Savage’s name in approximately 900 cases. The existence of the show cause orders involving allegedly improper signing of documents, coupled with the number of cases in which McDowell signed Savage’s name, leads to the conclusion that clear and convincing evidence supports the hearing judge’s determination that Burson made no efforts to ensure that the Shapiro Firm had in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that lawyers did not robo-sign documents.
As to the junior lawyer
Although McDowell signed trustee’s deeds and affidavits on Savage’s behalf, McDowell had a relatively blameless mental state in doing so, as McDowell did so at Savage’s direction and believed that doing so was not improper. Although McDowell’s misconduct is aggravated by a pattern of misconduct and multiple violations of the MLRPC, McDowell’s misconduct is mitigated by the absence of prior attorney discipline, the absence of a dishonest or selfish motive, a cooperative attitude toward this attorney discipline proceeding, and sincere remorse.
And a note of warning to Maryland supervising attorneys
To be clear, we caution partners—and lawyers who "possess comparable managerial authority[,]" MLRPC 5.1(a); MLRPC 5.3(a)—that our decision to reprimand Burson is based on this attorney discipline proceeding’s unique circumstances. Under other circumstances, this Court would suspend a lawyer who violates MLRPC 5.1(a)...