Friday, June 5, 2015
Recently, I contacted the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland to try to see whether I could get more information about the twenty (or more) client complaints that precipitated the disbarment of Cristina Gutierrez, the attorney who represented Adnan Syed. Unfortunately (but understandably), I was told that such complaints are confidential. That said, I was directed to this Press Release, which gives some additional context to Gutierrez's disbarment. According to the Press Release,
During their quarterly meeting on June 26, Trustees of the Clients' Security Trust Fund, now known as the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland, agreed to pay out more than $112,000 to claimants whose attorney was found to have kept money to which he/she was not entitled.
“The bulk of the money paid out to claimants was due to attorneys not doing the work that they promised,” said Fund Trustee Isaac Hecht. “We sincerely hope that the public realizes that these attorneys are a few bad apples in an otherwise reputable group.”
More than half the money paid out at the Trustee meeting was to clients of M. Cristina Gutierrez, who consented to disbarment in May. According to Hecht, Gutierrez failed to hold property of clients separately from her own, did not refund advanced fees that were not earned, and misappropriated funds intended to be used for third-party payments.
So, the Fund had to pay out at least $56,000.01 to Gutierrez's clients based upon, inter alia, failing to do the work that she promised and misappropriating/failing to refund monies paid to her by her clients. Among the "bad apples" in Maryland, Gutierrez was responsible for more malfeasance than all of the other "bad apples" combined.