Friday, March 2, 2018
The Maryland Court of Appeals has disbarred an attorney
Court of Appeals disbarred lawyer who knowingly failed to disclose during bar application process that, in civil case to which lawyer was party, trial court found that lawyer had engaged in dishonesty and misconduct, and lawyer falsely stated to Bar Counsel that he had disclosed all required information during bar application process.
The case involved his pre-law school work as an independent journalist and a video he recorded
Before becoming a member of the Bar of Maryland, Gregory Allen Slate, Respondent, initiated a civil case [against the American Broadcasting Company] concerning alleged copyright infringement, claiming that hidden camera footage that he had recorded was used without his authorization. The trial court dismissed the case on the ground that Slate had engaged in bad-faith litigation conduct. The trial court found that Slate: fabricated a letter and submitted it to the trial court in bad faith; gave deposition testimony that was either perjurious or, at least, intentionally misleading; and repeatedly attempted to abuse the discovery process through such actions as attempting to fraudulently collect evidence, providing discovery materials in a soiled envelope that strongly smelled of excrement, improperly videotaping his own deposition testimony, and providing voluminous irrelevant and misleading materials. Slate filed a motion for reconsideration. The trial court denied the motion, and found that Slate’s filings in connection with the motion showed a continuing pattern of omissions and obfuscations.
Slate did not attach copies of the trial court’s opinions to his bar application or provide any information about the findings therein. In response to Question 11 on the bar application, which called for information about cases to which an applicant had been a party, Slate disclosed basic facts about the case, such as the circumstance that an appeal was pending at the time. Slate, however, did not disclose the trial court’s opinions or the findings therein. Significantly, Slate responded "No" to Question 18—a "catchall question" that calls for any negative information that was not requested by, or given in the responses to, any of the other questions.
After submitting his bar application, Slate falsely affirmed under oath that all of the facts in his bar application remained correct. Slate did not supplement his bar application with the trial court’s opinions or the findings therein. Nor did Slate disclose the trial court’s opinions or the findings therein during the character interview. Nor did Slate disclose the information during a meeting with the co-chairs of the Character Committee for the Fourth Appellate Judicial Circuit ("the Character Committee"). Consistent with the Character Committee’s co-chairs’ recommendation, the State Board of Law Examiners ("the SBLE") cleared Slate for admission without a hearing. This Court, unaware of the trial court’s findings of dishonesty and misconduct, admitted Slate to the Bar of Maryland.
He had disclosed
In his bar application, Slate disclosed that he had been involved in thirty-three criminal cases, and had been a party to forty-three civil cases, including the ABC Case. Slate disclosed the ABC Case’s name, the filing date, the court’s name and address, the date of trial, and the date of disposition. Next to “Disposition[,]” Slate wrote: “Dismissed pending appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit[.]” Slate responded “No” to the question “Are you [the] subject of any continuing court order?” Slate also responded “No” to the question “Was the judgment entered against you?” Slate responded “No” to Question 11(b), which stated: “Have any judgments ever been entered against you?” Slate also responded “No” to Question 11(c), which stated: “I have attached to this Application certified copies of all judgments listed in 11(b), whether satisfied or unsatisfied, and listed below the names and present addresses (with zip codes) of the holders.”
The problem was reported by an attorney who discovered the adverse opinions on a web page set up by a former business associate of Slate who became an enemy.
Within a year, a Maryland lawyer became aware of the trial court’s opinions, and filed a complaint against Slate with Bar Counsel. Subsequently, Bar Counsel requested from Slate a response to the complaint. In a written response, Slate stated that he had disclosed all required information during the bar application process.
He sought to blame an Assistant Dean at his law school and the Secretary to the State Board of Law Examiners for his non-disclosure
At the disciplinary hearing, Slate testified that Shipley, Diamond, and various other individuals advised him not to disclose the Opinions in his bar application. Slate blamed these individuals for his failure to disclose the Opinions in his bar application. The hearing judge found: “Perhaps the individuals did, in fact, navigate [Slate] toward nondisclosure on his bar application; nevertheless, [Slate]’s attempt to shift the blame does not absolve him of his responsibility to prove his character to practice law, and to do so without knowingly omitting material facts[.]” (Citations omitted).
At oral argument, when asked about the appropriate sanction, Slate responded that "this is an all-or-nothing scenario." We agree. "[A]bsent compelling extenuating circumstances, disbarment is ordinarily the sanction for intentional dishonest conduct[.]" Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Mahone, 451 Md. 25, 46, 150 A.3d 870, 883 (2016) (cleaned up). Here, Slate does not contend that there are any compelling extenuating circumstances. Upon our independent review, the hearing judge’s opinion is devoid of any facts that could possibly constitute compelling extenuating circumstances.
Oral argument linked here. (Mike Frisch)