Friday, April 20, 2018
The Maryland Court of Appeals issued its opinion disbarring an attorney after entering an order on March 16
This attorney discipline proceeding involves a lawyer who, chief among various forms of serious misconduct, misappropriated funds, fabricated documents, and made misrepresentations to courts, clients, and opposing counsel.
In this case, Stephen Howard Sacks, Respondent, a member of the Bar of Maryland, represented seven clients, and himself, in separate matters that resulted in the institution of an attorney disciplinary proceeding and numerous findings of misconduct. Specifically, Sacks was retained to represent Jermaine D. Harris in a criminal case, to assist Joy Whyte with a meeting with an Assistant United States Attorney, to assist Erick E. Chen in attempting to have the Federal Bureau of Investigation return certain personal property to him, to represent Daniel W. Anderson in criminal cases and an immigration case, to represent Rondall Range in a criminal case, to represent Anita Range in a child support case, and to represent William D. Smith in a domestic matter. In these matters, Sacks engaged in assorted forms of misconduct, including misappropriation of funds that he had been paid to represent Whyte, Chen, Anderson, Rondall Range, and Smith. While representing himself, Sacks initiated eight frivolous actions or appeals against multiple parties, including his landlord, Tindeco Wharf, LLC ("Tindeco"), and its counsel, Adam M. Spence. Harris, Whyte, Chen, Anderson, Craig Kadish (Mr. Range’s new counsel), Smith, and Spence filed complaints against Sacks with Bar Counsel.
The appropriate sanction for Sacks’s misconduct is disbarment. Sacks engaged in copious instances of misconduct while representing seven clients, as well as himself. Sacks violated MLRPC 8.4(c) by, among other things, misappropriating funds, fabricating documents, and making misrepresentations to courts, clients, and opposing counsel. "Absent compelling extenuating circumstances justifying a lesser sanction, intentional dishonest conduct by a lawyer will result in disbarment." Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Thomas, 445 Md. 379, 402, 127 A.3d 562, 576 (2015) (cleaned up). Additionally, "disbarment will inevitably follow any unmitigated misappropriation of . . . funds." Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Kobin, 432 Md. 565, 585, 69 A.3d 1053, 1065 (2013) (cleaned up). Here, the only mitigating factor—the absence of prior attorney discipline—comes nowhere close to constituting a compelling extenuating circumstance. Additionally, there are several aggravating factors, including illegal conduct, a pattern of misconduct, and likelihood of repetition of the misconduct. Simply put, given the numerous instances and wide range of the misconduct, and the injury to multiple clients, disbarment was necessary to protect the public.